JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s relatively young Davis Cup team learned some harsh lessons this weekend but non-playing captain Marcos Ondruska believes it will only armour them for future battles.
The team suffered a 3-2 defeat to Israel in Pretoria in their first match since they were promoted to the Euro/Africa I group.
Seasoned doubles duo Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse scored a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Dudi Sela and Jonathan Elrich on Saturday.
The home side was 2-1 up ahead of the reverse singles but was ultimately outsmarted by the Israelis.
Promising youngster Lloyd Harris won his opening rubber on Friday while Nik Scholtz came painstakingly close to winning his first match against Israeli No 1 Sela.
Scholtz would have a case to argue that had lightning and weather not delayed the final set of his match when his tail was up against Sela a win could easily have been in the bag.
Ondruska said it was an ‘unfortunate finish’ to the tie as his side now have to prepare for a match in September that will determine whether they are relegated or remain in this group.
“We don’t like losing at the best of times and to lose like this hurts even more but it is a young team and it has been our first loss in a while,” Ondruska said. “These could be some good lessons that we can take from these situations and hopefully it is something they can springboard off and use to get better.”
Harris, who relished the opportunity to test himself against Sela, but the visitor hardly broke a sweat in his 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 triumph.
The tie came down to the wire with the final rubber between Scholtz and Edan Lesham with the South African bowing the knee 6-3, 7-5.
“If they can use the tough situations like this and find the desire and the willingness to take a look at themselves to make the step-up by a level or two then we’ve got a real team,” Ondruska said. “I don’t think it was necessarily going to be the easiest of things moving up into this new group.
“These guys are serious, it is not like some of the teams we’ve been playing here,” he added.
South Africa could face Sweden, Ukraine or Portugal in a relegation play-off in September with the winner securing their place in the current group with the loser suffering relegation.
Although Ondruska was disappointed with the loss, he believed if his charges took the lessons to heart they could become a force to be reckoned with in future.
Ondruska placed a high premium on developing the players not only for future Davis Cup ties but hopefully seeing them perform at Grand Slam tournaments.
“It’s about the development of the guys that are on the team, we have to figure out how we are going to support them and keep them improving, developing and broadening their games,” he said.