PRETORIA – South Africa suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat in their Davis Cup tie against Israel at the Irene Country Club yesterday.
The tie went down to the wire, with the final rubber between Nik Scholtz and Edan Lesham serving as the decider, with the South African bowing the knee 6-3 7-5.
Dynamic doubles duo Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse earlier swung the tie in South Africa’s favour with a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory over Dudi Sela and Jonathan Elrich.
The tie was evenly poised at 1-1 after the first two singles matches on Friday, with the respective No 1s, Lloyd Harris of South Africa and Sela, winning their matches.
South Africa will next play in the promotion-relegation match against the losers of the tie between Sweden and Ukraine.
Klaasen and Roelofse failed to convert opportunities into points where they had seven break points on offer but managed to let it slip.
The visitors clinched the first set but the local duo struck back after finding more accuracy in the remaining two sets to put them 2-1 up ahead of the reverse singles.
“If you look at the chances we had in the first set, we probably had more opportunities, but we didn’t capitalise,” Klaasen said.
“We told each other that we have to stay positive, and Ruan put together an unbelievable game when we broke where he probably won eight straight points on his side.
“We had them under the gun quite often and taking care of our serves pretty good, so all in all we are pretty happy.”
Roelofse and Klaasen have gone unbeaten in seven matches as a doubles partnership in Davis Cup.
Israel’s No 1 singles player Sela showed his class in the next match by beating South Africa’s top man Lloyd Harris.
Harris broke Sela’s serve in the opening game to give South Africa an early advantage in the crucial match that could have clinched the tie for the home side.
Hopes of Harris wrapping up the tie before the second reverse singles rubber soon faded as Sela launched a comeback by breaking back.
Sela broke Harris twice in the first set in the sixth and eighth games while Harris came back in the ninth.
The set was eventually decided by a tie-breaker, with Sela making short work of the South African.
Harris started to feel under the weather halfway into the second set possibly from something he ate.
Sela proved to be the ultimate banana skin, breaking Harris’ serve in the first game of the second set and again in the fifth and seventh to claim a 7-6(2) 6-1 victory.
“I was feeling good going out on to the court, I was feeling motivated and happy, and obviously something upset me a little bit and it wasn’t quite going my way,” Harris said.
“I didn’t feel my best, but all credit to Dudi, he played unbelievable tennis, he made my life difficult out there.”
Scholtz made a promising start to the final rubber breaking Lesham’s serve in the opening game of the match. Lesham broke back in the fourth and again in the sixth to take the first set.
The South African recovered well in the second set and looked set to force the tie-break until the 11th game, when Lesham made the breakthrough to set up the win.