Davis Cup captain will ensure SA’s top players will play against Israel in promotion playoffs
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With South Africa being drawn against Israel for their Davis Cup by Rakuten World Group I promotion playoff next year, the contest will be both a professional and personal battle for national captain Christo van Rensburg.
Van Rensburg, who won the Australian Open doubles title in 1985 with American partner Paul Annacone, trained with former Israeli star Amos Mansdorf for five years during his professional career, and they have stayed in touch ever since.
Now, with his squad set to face a team which could be led by Mansdorf - currently the director of the Israel Tennis Association - Van Rensburg will have to deal with an old friend becoming a new foe.
Despite the emotional war he might face on the court, however, the South African captain is eager to compete against his former hitting partner.
"He is one of my best friends, and now after so many years we are most likely going to coach against each other, so that's very exciting," Van Rensburg said.
The SA team, spearheaded by Lloyd Harris, reached the Davis Cup by Rakuten World Group I promotions payoffs after defeating Venezuela 4-0 in their Group II tie in New York in September.
After winning his first tie in charge of the national squad, Van Rensburg is eager to lift them higher up the global ladder with another victory over Israel as they go in search of a place in Group I.
With some members of the SA squad being tied to universities in the United States, he will need to negotiate their release to ensure a full-strength team is available.
With a strong core group of players, however, South Africa should be competitive in the playoff contest.
"I am now going to reach out to see all the players who might be available," Van Rensburg said.
"We obviously have to talk to coaches in America and confirm if they will let their players go for 10 days, but it's very exciting and we're looking forward to the tie."
South Africa have twice faced Israel in the Davis Cup, with their opponents winning both clashes.
In 2001, in Ramat HaSharon, Israel earned a 3-2 victory, and in Irene in 2018, they again secured a 3-2 win.
The tie between South Africa and Israel will be played on 4 and 5 March 2022, and the winning team will gain promotion to World Group I.