SOFIA, September 15, 2022 (Tennis South Africa Press Release)
Lleyton Cronje will make his debut for the South African team on Friday after being drawn to play the first singles rubber against Bulgaria in the Davis Cup by Rakuten World Group II tie at the National Tennis Centre in Sofia.
Cronje, the South African team’s No 2 player, was selected to face Bulgaria’s No 1, Dimitar Kuzmanov, at the draw for the tie held on Thursday.
In the second singles match, the South African squad’s No. 1, Philip Henning, was drawn to face Bulgaria’s No 2, Alexander Lazarov.
Cronje will then pair up with experienced Davis Cup star Raven Klaasen for the doubles rubber on Saturday, as they gear up to face Alexander Donski and Petr Kuzmanov.
In the reverse singles clashes, also to be played on Saturday, Henning will meet Kuzmanov, and Cronje is up against Lazarov.
“The work we’ve done here over the last few days has been quite good. We’ve watched videos and discussed where there could be openings,” said South African captain Christo van Rensburg.
“We’re very excited and grateful for all the support we have received from back home and we look forward to representing South Africa as best we can.”
With two US-based college players in the SA team – Henning and Cronje – and some top-flight players missing from the squad for various reasons (including injured star Lloyd Harris) the national side don’t boast highly ranked singles players on the ATP Tour.
While they will also be without their top-ranked player, Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria’s singles players – Kuzmanov and Lazarov – are both ranked among the top 400 in the world.
The young players in the South African team will not be intimidated, however, as they enter the tie in good form after participating on the highly competitive collegiate circuit.
In addition, as the world No 73, Klaasen is the only player from either side who is ranked among the top 100 in doubles, giving the visitors a significant advantage for the doubles rubber.
Despite the challenges they were preparing to face in the away tie, Van Rensburg was confident of their chances against their hosts.
“On paper we are not the favourites,” the skipper admitted.
“But we are playing with a tennis ball that is very lively on the clay surface here, so the court is not playing like a traditional clay court where you have time and the ball is heavy, and we feel this will play towards the strengths of our team.”