The South African Fed Cup team beat Malta 2-1 in Montenegro on Thursday. Photo: @TennisSA on Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – The South African Fed Cup team has gained promotion to the Europe/Africa Zone Group II after beating Malta 2-1 in their play-off tie on a claycourt in Montenegro yesterday.

Chanel Simmond was the star player for South Africa as she won her singles rubber before featuring in the decisive doubles match with birthday girl Madrie le Roux.

It was a superb start to Rene Plant’s tenure as Fed Cup captain with her charges moving up from the bottom tier of the international women’s series.

The Fed Cup team beat Montenegro (2-1), Kenya (3-0), and Finland (2-1) on their way to the promotion tie in the Europe/Africa Zone Group III tournament.

Debutante Katie Poluta won her first two singles rubbers before going down in the last two against Finland and Malta.

She lost the opening rubber of the play-off match against Malta’s Francesca Curmi 6-1, 6-0 before South Africa’s top-ranked singles player Simmonds levelled the tie by beating Elaine Genovese 6-1, 7-6 (7/1).

Simmonds and Le Roux wrapped up the tie beating the Maltese combination of Curmi and Genovese 6-1, 6-1 to book their promotion.

The South African Fed Cup team has gained promotion to the Europe/Africa Zone Group II. Photo: @TennisSA on Twitter

It was former South African professional tennis player Plant’s first tournament as non-playing captain of the Fed Cup team after Earl Grainger stepped down in May 2017.

Plant was delighted about the team’s promotion with stalwart Simmonds leading the way in the crucial play-off tie.

“Chanel dug deep and once again handled the pressure extremely well to win her singles rubber,” Plant said.

“Madrie and Chanel then played an unbelievable two sets of doubles where they totally dominated the opposition. Awesome! Awesome!”

Plant and her current crop of young players seem to have arrested the decline of the Fed Cup team.

South Africa was relegated to the lowest tier after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Hungary in the Euro/Africa Zone II in 2017. The team has been sliding down the rankings, playing in the Euro/Africa Zone I in 2016.

The Star

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