SA rally to Davis Cup lead
Hot-shot Harris, blow for Estonia
SPEARHEADED by a ruthless Lloyd Harris, South Africa yesterday took a 2-0 lead in their Davis Cup first-round tie against a battered and bruised Estonia at Irene Country Club.
Estonia suffered an early setback when their No 1 player Jurgen Zopp retired hurt after the third set of the first rubber, handing Nik Scholtz a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
While it could be argued Scholtz’s victory was somewhat of a gimme, Harris bulldozed past Vladimir Ivanov winning in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, and 6-2 in this Euro/Africa Group II tie.
Zopp came out fighting in the opening rubber by claiming the first set 6-4 and putting the pressure on South Africa’s number two player.
Scholtz bounced back with aplomb, though, as he turned in a more accurate performance to break Zopp’s serve in the 10th game to win the second set.
Battling with an abdominal muscle strain, Zopp lost a few break points – allowing Scholtz to take the game against the run of play.
Zopp came close to breaking Scholtz in the fifth game but squandered three break points allowing the South African to claim the third set. Unable to continue due to the injury Zopp conceded defeat giving South Africa the early advantage.
Scholtz said although it was not ideal to win a match when the opposition is forced to retire, he was nevertheless proud to give his team the early lead.
“I feel sorry for him and I hope he recovers but I’m not going to let it take anything away from my performance,” Scholtz said.
“The first set wasn’t my best but I did really well to hang in there and wait for the dam to break. He had a lot of break points in the second set on my serve and if I had lost one of those games it would have been a bit different out there.”
Zopp felt he was in control of the match before he started feeling the strain from the injury on his service game which resulted in a more equal contest.
The South African suffered a setback of his own when he had a brief time out due to a nose bleed early in the third set.
“All credit to Nik; in the end he was better than me on the court. It is disappointing and it feels like I let down my team but injuries are part of the sport,” Zopp said.
With the game finishing sooner than expected, Harris was caught slightly off guard and had to grab a quick bite before his rubber to give him some energy.
That was about as much trouble Harris had as his time on court was without a hitch as he swept past Ivanov.
Ivanov showed some resistance in the opening set but wilted in the blistering heat and altitude.
“Going into the third set 2-0 up, Harris won three straight games before Ivanov held his serve but he only managed to delay the inevitable.
“I felt right from the start I was holding serve really comfortably, and every game I went break point up against him but he pulled a few first serves where I missed a few balls,” Harris said.
Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse could give South Africa an unassailable lead in today’s doubles match and set up a tie against the winners between Monaco and Slovenia in April.