Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse came from a set down to win the doubles rubber on Saturday to give South Africa victory over Estonia in their Davis Cup Euro Africa Group 2 tie at the Irene Country Club in Pretoria.
After a slow start which saw South Africa lose the opening set in the tie breaker 6-7 (4), Klaasen and Roelofse regrouped to beat Kenneth Raisma and Mattias Siimar 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-4 7-5.
The 2hr 27min win gave South Africa the all-important third point and, leading Estonia 3-0, were declared winner of the first round tie.
On Friday both Nik Scholtz and Lloyd Harris won their opening day singles rubbers which put the hosts in a comfortable 2-0 position going in to the doubles on Saturday.
The Estonian doubles team started strongly and showed their muscle early in the rubber.
With Raisma winning the junior doubles title at Wimbledon last year, and he and Mattias reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships, on paper they may have seemed the underdogs but were destined to give the South Africans a strong challenge.
What was also to the Estonian duo’s advantage was that both were left handed players, which made them tricky opponents to read.
But Klaasen is not regarded as one of the world’s finest doubles player for nothing. The world No13’s speed, agility and experience on court gave the South Africans the advantage. With Roelofse serving on song, the South Africans regrouped, broke serve in the opening game of the second set and held on to win the second set 6-3 in 30 minutes.
In the third set, the South Africans capitalised on one of five breakpoint opportunities and closed out the set 6-4.
But the Estonian fight was not over. Despite a hot and sweltering 46 degree Celsius on-court temperature, the visitors troubled the hosts in the fourth set. South Africa squandered a number of break opportunities and eventually in the 10th game they broke the Estonians and closed out the set 7-5 to win the rubber and tie.
‘That rubber was tougher than we expected’ said South African captain Marcos Ondruska after the win. ‘We knew the Estonian youngsters could play good doubles but we really didn’t expect them to come out firing like they did and after my boys lost the opening set we had to step up and make the most of all the opportunities thrown.
‘Raven and Ruan did just that and capitalised on their experience which resulted them winning the next three sets to clinch the rubber and tie.’
This was the fourth tie Klaasen and Roelofse had played together and remain unbeaten as a team.
Ondruska gave praise to the Estonians and said that doubles rubber was of world class standard and that the spectators were treated to a real good match.
Klaasen said he was very excited about the outcome. ‘We didn’t get off to the best start as we would have liked and come back from a set down. But that’s Davis Cup for you, you never have anything the way you expect. Players when playing for their country tend to play better than usual and these Estonian youngsters came out swinging and did themselves proud.’
Klaasen said he was happy that he and Roelofse had given the team victory as it took the stress off the team for Sunday’s reverse singles.
South Africa, seeded eighth, look to play Slovenia seeded second, at home from the 7-9 April in the second round of Euro/Africa Group 2. Slovenia lead Monaco at home 2-0, and are expected to win the doubles rubber on Saturday.
The last time South Africa played Slovenia was in 2015 away and Slovenia won that tie 4-1.
Picture of Roelofse and Klaasen courtesy of Reg Caldecott
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