JOHANNESBURG - South African teenager Philip Henning could make his Davis Cup debut for the country when they face Portugal in their crucial Euro/Africa Group 1 relegation/playoff tie in Lisbon next week.
The talented youngster was named in the five-member squad and due to the new Davis Cup format, Henning could be utilised over the two-day tie taking place next Friday and Saturday.
The format allows the captain to play all five team members and not just four as was the case with the three-day format. With the exception of Henning’s inclusion, SA captain Marcos Ondruska named an unchanged side to the one that gained promotion to Euro/Africa Group 1 this year.
SA’s second-highest ranked singles player Lloyd Harris will once again lead the country’s charge.
Nik Scholtz, who has been sidelined for two months due to a back injury was named as SA’s second singles player.
Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse will continue their successful doubles partnership, while Tucker Vorster will be travelling with the team as a practice partner.
“Portugal has a lot of depth. I am expecting the Portuguese to name a full-strength side and with them having three players ranked in the world’s top 200 it gives them ample options on selection,” Ondruska said.
“It’s never easy playing away. Portugal have chosen outdoor clay which is their preferred surface and they will have the crowds behind them, but (in) saying that, I have a motivated team. Lloyd Harris and Raven Klaasen are in great form, so I expect the tie to be an interesting battle.”
While clay may pose a challenge to the SA players who are more adept on hard courts, Ondruska believed it would be surmountable.
“Lloyd is actually pretty good and comfortable on clay, Anthony Harris (his coach) has a clay court down in Cape Town,” Ondruska said.
“Nik has been practising on the clay there for about a week already, while Lloyd and Anthony practice on it a lot and do a lot of movement and work on it year around.”
Philip Henning could not attend last night's TSA Junior Awards dinner, as he was representing South Africa at the Youth Olympics in Argentina. However he sent us this message of thanks after winning three awards. pic.twitter.com/pIpBUY7goD
Harris will go into the tie with a huge amount of confidence thanks to a breakthrough season on the international scene.
He won his second ATP Challenger tournament in Stockton in the United States over the weekend.
The 21-year-old won his first Challenger title in Kentucky in August, while he qualified for his first grand slam at the US Open in August.
Harris claimed the biggest scalp of his career when he beat former world number 6 Gael Monfils at the ATP Chengdu Open before losing to Australian Bernard Tomic in the quarter-finals.
He reached a career-high world No 113th following his victory in Stockton. “He’s always been good, the talent has always been there and there has always been something special about him,” Ondruska said.
Meanwhile, Henning and Sada Nahimana of Burundi are through to the last 16 of the mixed doubles at the Youth Olympics after they beat Thasaporn Naklo (Thailand) and Ali Dawani (Bahrain) 6-0, 6-1 on Tuesday.
South African Team
Lloyd Harris (113 singles, 286 doubles), Nik Scholtz (492 singles, 1325 doubles), Raven Klaasen (18 doubles), Ruan Roelofse (158 doubles), Philip Henning (ITF Junior ranking 66).