Lloyd Harris is loving it in New York. Picture: Elsa/Getty Images via AFP
Lloyd Harris is loving it in New York. Picture: Elsa/Getty Images via AFP

SA’s Lloyd Harris serves up freshly baked ’bagels’ in Venezuela Davis Cup clash

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Sep 19, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Christo van Rensburg started his tenure as the new South African Davis Cup captain on a high note on Saturday.

Van Rensburg, a former Grand Slam doubles winner, guided his charges to a 2-0 lead in the Davis Cup by Rakuten Group II tie against Venezuela at the historic Forest Hills Stadium at the West Side Tennis Club in New York.

ALSO READ: SA Davis Cup captain thrilled about the prospect of working with Lloyd Harris

South Africa was off to a flier after their No 1 Lloyd Harris, fresh from his UP Open quarter-final finish, breezed through his match against Venezuela No 2 Brandon Perez 6-0 6-0 in 37 minutes.

Harris stuttered at the start when he trailed 40-0 on Perez' serve. At that point, he recovered and never looked back again, and the set was over in 19 minutes.

Harris, the world No 31, did not call on his big serve too much and uncharacteristically sent down a single ace in the opening set. He sent down four in the next set and handed Perez (No 1921 in the world) a ’bagel’ for a second time as he signed off 6-0 6-0.

ALSO READ: Lloyd Harris to spearhead SA Davis Cup team in New York

Afterwards, Harris said he was pleased he took his US Open form into the tie against Venezuela.

“I think it is a unique situation, playing a tie between South Africa and Venezuela in New York, but I think it’s pretty cool,” said Harris. “I think it worked out well for me since I have been here for a while.”

“I think I’ve had some nice momentum in New York and obviously, I was able to keep that momentum going today and played a really solid match.

"I have never seen him (Perez) play before, so it was the first time. I wasn't sure what to expect but I think I made life very difficult for him.

"I did not give him any free points and he served his games. I think he has some good strokes, he has some good shots, but I think I just played very well, very efficiently."

In the second singles rubber, SA No 2 Philip Henning who made his Davis Cup venue, ground out a workmanlike 6-4 6-4 win over Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace after 89 minutes.

This win by Henning, who has yet to make it onto the world rankings, gave South Africa a commanding 2-0 lead in the tie. Rodriguez-Pace is 591 on the world rankings.

“It’s a great honour for me representing my country,” said Henning. “Especially at a place like this. We love our sport, and this place is one of the places with the most history for tennis. A lot of big names played on this court.

"I enjoyed playing today. It was a fun match. At the start, I was a bit nervous. After a few games, I found my groove and rhythm. I think I played well."

Henning plays tennis for the University of Georgia and talked about college tennis providing a sound grounding for a professional career.

“I think that college tennis is a great place to be," said the 21-year-old Henning. "I feel that you improve as a person in different aspects of your life while focusing on tennis. College tennis is competitive.

“It improves your game and makes you ready for the high-pressure moments in pro tennis and at the same time studying. It kind of covers all areas.”

A feature of Henning's win was that he converted four of six break points in the match. His opponent managed two in six.

Play continues on Sunday with three more ties, and South Africa will need one more point for the victory. First up is the doubles rubber, followed by reverse singles.

The South African doubles pairing includes the experienced campaigners Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse, who will go up against Luis David Martinez and Dimitri Badra.

The winner advances to the Davis Cup World Group I playoffs in 2022.

@Herman_Gibbs

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