ASHDOD, March 1, 2022 (SA Tennis Press Release)
With the squad having arrived in Ashdod, Israel on Monday, national captain Christo van Rensburg said they had already found some momentum in the build-up to the South African team’s crucial Davis Cup by Rakuten World Group I promotion playoff on Friday and Saturday.
Uncapped teenager Dylan Salton, the youngest member of the five-man squad selected by Van Rensburg for the tie, had already made his presence felt after a two-hour session with the South African team’s star player, Lloyd Harris.
Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse and Vaughn Hunter – all options for the doubles match this weekend – had also had a chance to work together in the early stages of the week.
Here’s the Israeli team to face South Africa in @DavisCup by Rakuten World Group I promotion playoff 👇
1⃣ Yshai Oliel
2⃣ Edan Leshem
3⃣ Ben Patel
4⃣ Daniel Cukierman
5⃣ Jonathan Erlich (Captain)
— Tennis South Africa (@TennisSA) February 28, 2022
“Lloyd had his first practice with Dylan, and he was very impressed with how Dylan was hitting the ball, so that’s promising,” Van Rensburg said on Tuesday.
“All the doubles players in the team have also been working together, getting used to the conditions and the indoor court.”
Though he admitted the SA team was not a first-choice squad, with some players being unavailable due to US collegiate commitments, Van Rensburg said it was important to compromise with universities, which formed a breeding ground for the sport.
And he was pleased to have continued commitment from South Africa’s top-ranked singles (Harris) and doubles (Klaasen) players, along with Davis Cup veteran Roelofse, who formed the backbone of the larger national squad.
“The American college circuit is very important for many of our players, giving them opportunities at the start of their careers,” Van Rensburg said.
“The extra depth would have been nice, but I’m also very happy with the new guys (Salton and Hunter) we’ve got here.”
This week’s tie, which gives the SA team a chance to return to Group I in the international team competition, will be played in front of a packed stadium in Ashdod, with nearly 1,500 tickets already sold.
“It’s going to be an eye-opening experience for the younger guys in the team because it’s going to be loud. Israel is going to have a lot of support and I think it’s going to be crazy,” Van Rensburg said.
“There is going to be an amazing atmosphere and we’re all looking forward to what promises to be an exciting match-up against our hosts.”
The draw for the Davis Cup by Rakuten playoff tie will be held on Thursday, with the two-day contest being played on Friday and Saturday.