SA Davis Cup captain Marcos Ondruska says he is “still trying to wrap my head around what happened” against Portugal. Photo: BackpagePix

South Africa received a 4-0 pounding at the hands of Portugal, relegating them to the Europe/Africa Zone Group II.

Playing on red clay in Lisbon over the weekend, the Portuguese were in a destructive mood at home where they swept past South Africa’s men with great ferocity. 

The country’s non-playing captain Marcos Ondruska was at a loss for words on Saturday about the comprehensive defeat, which marked their second this year after going down to Israel in South Africa.

“I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened this weekend, but I actually don’t think our guys played that badly,” Ondruska said on Saturday.

“I think we played reasonably well, and we weren’t given too many chances and opportunities out there.”

The home side swept past South Africa’s two top singles players Lloyd Harris and Nik Scholtz to take a 2-0 advantage on Friday going into the final day of the tie. 

South Africa’s fate was sealed following the doubles rubber on Saturday, with Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias bringing Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse’s seven-match winning streak to an end.

Sousa and Elias won the match 6-4 6-7 (4/7) 6-2 to give their side an unassailable 3-0 lead ahead of the reverse singles matches.

It was the first Davis Cup doubles loss for Roelofse in the 13 rubbers played, and the first loss for Klaasen and Roelofse playing as a team.

South Africa’s top doubles player Klaasen said bemoaned the lost opportunities which they could not convert. 

“It is disappointing to take a loss like that. We felt like we played a good match and good enough to win, had we taken few of our chances out there,” Klaasen said.

“It wasn’t easy. The conditions on court were slow and favourable to them, so we had to make a lot of adjustments.”

Roelofse admitted that they may have gifted Portugal with a few points and shouldered some of the blame.

“Portugal got off to a good start, we played a loose game, probably me more than Raven, and gave them a couple of free points,” Roelofse said.

“We found a way to be in control score-wise most of the time, but after that, it just slipped away.”

Both team captains agreed to play one reverse singles rubber following the doubles.

Ondruska named debutant junior Philip Henning to do duty for his country, and he went up against Joao Domingues.

The South African teenage sensation suffered a 6-4 6-0 defeat to his more esteemed opponent.

The South African junior earned valuable experience playing against Domingues, who is ranked 225th on the world singles rankings. 

“I am honoured to play Davis Cup tennis for my country as a junior,” Henning said.

On the opening day, Portuguese number two Pedro Sousa gave his team a dream start by beating Lloyd Harris 6-1 6-1. 

South Africa’s number-two singles player Nik Scholtz put up a valiant fight against Joao Sousa, but ultimately bowed the knee 6-3 6-2, giving the Portuguese the early advantage.

 

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