Tennis: S Africa pose cup dilemma

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN MUST win a home tie against South Africa in September to stay in the Davis Cup world group next year and capitalise on the huge interest generated by the match with the United States last weekend, which went to the fifth set of the fifth and final rubber before the Americans advanced to the quarter-finals, 3-2.

Having avoided the peril yesterday of being drawn to play away on dreaded slow clay courts, Britain have until 30 April to decide where to stage the qualifying round match with South Africa, who traditionally are undaunted by the speed and low bounce of grass.

Wayne Ferreira, South Africa's No 1, won the Stella Artois title at London's Queen's Club in 1992, and was the runner-up to Germany's Michael Stich there in 1993. Ferreira was a Wimbledon singles quarter-finalist in 1994, when he also reached the doubles semi-finals, partnering Stich, having been eliminated at the same stage in 1991 with a compatriot, Piet Norval.

Ranked in the world's top 50 for the past eight years, Ferreira is capable of competing on any surface, indoors or outdoors. The South Africans qualified for the promotion/relegation play-off against Britain by defeating Belarus, 4-1, in Cape Town last weekend on a medium-pace outdoor concrete court similar to those used for the United States Open in New York.

Ferreira won his two singles matches against Belarus in the final of Euro/African zone Group 1. David Nainkin, the South African No 2, who lost to Britain's Tim Henman in the second round at Wimbledon last year, was defeated in the opening rubber. David Adams and John-Laffnie De Jager won the doubles. Marcos Ondruska, Grant Stafford, Ellis Ferreira and Piet Norval may be contenders for the tie in Britain on 24 to 26 September.

Britain returned to the world group after defeating India in the qualifying round on grass at Nottingham at the end of September last year.

David Lloyd, Britain's captain, in consultation with his leading players, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, will have to decide whether there is a risk in playing the South Africa tie on grass, from the weather, or the visiting team.

The match against the United States at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena was watched over the three days by a total of 30,000 roaring, flag- waving spectators, who were thrilled by the high quality tennis played on a medium-pace hard court laid on wood.

South Africa are the only nation to have won the Davis Cup by default. In 1974, the only time they reached the final, their opponents, India, were refused permission to participate by the Indian government because of apartheid.