AARHUS, Denmark – A sense of anticipation hovered over the KIA SA Davis Cup camp on the eve of their crucial Group II Euro/Africa third-round showdown with Denmark at the Ceres Park & Arena in Aarhus, Denmark on Friday afternoon.
The winners of this three-day tie will be promoted to Group 1, and the South Africans have sensed an opportunity to exit the Davis Cup doldrums where the team has been languishing for the past four years.
The players would also have been fired up by the prospect that the 2018 competition could offer them a chance to face some of the world’s leading players on home turf.
Following Thursday’s pre-match draw, South African No 2 Nik Scholtz has been tasked with spearheading the drive for promotion. He is up against Denmark’s trumpcard Frederick Nielsen.
Both players will need to adapt to the unfamiliar slowish indoor surface and whoever does that better could impose themselves on the game to good effect.
The South Africans would have favoured the usual outdoor hardcourt surface, but instead will now have to contend with the twin intimidation of slow courts and the opposition’s greater experience.
Since last year Scholtz has racked up five Davis Cup appearances, whereas Nielsen is a veteran of 38 ties and has played 56 singles rubbers on just about every surface variation.
His Davis Cup career win/loss singles record stands at 33/23.
Both camps have been saying the surface will be the great leveller, but only once the Nielsen-Scholtz rubber gets under way will it be known just how much it could influence the eventual outcome of the weekend’s tie.
In stark contrast to their opponents, the mood in Denmark’s camp was relaxed, and they have been hard at work at the match venue throughout the week.
Locally there has not been much media hype, and the players have been able to move about in the public domain without being bothered by fans asking for autographs and selfies.
Denmark have made an interesting choice with Benjamin Hannestad as their No 2, and although his world ranking is just above the No 1 000 mark, the feeling is that he is a much player.
He has just come off the tough college tennis circuit in the United States, and he will want to justify his selection ahead of two other members in the national squad.
Hannestad will play SA No 1 Lloyd Harris in the late rubber.
Harris usually comes out all guns blazing, and the clash could be determined by how well Hannestad copes with Harris’ aggressive game.
The outcome of Saturday’s doubles could prove to be the decisive factor if each side surrenders a singles tie, which could be a possibility by the end of Friday’s play.
SA’s world doubles star, Raven Klaasen – the only player in the tie with a top 20 world ranking – has shaped up as the side’s banker.
Friday’s play (start 3pm SA time)
First rubber: 1-Frederik Nielsen (DEN) vs 2-Nik Scholtz (SA)
Second rubber: 2-Benjamin Hannestad (DEN) vs 1-Lloyd Harris (SA)
Saturday’s play (start 1pm SA time)
Third rubber: Thomas Kromann/Frederik Nielsen (DEN) vs Raven Klaasen/Ruan Roelofse (SA)
African News Agency (ANA)