MONTREAL, CANADA: With doubles specialist Daniel Nestor anchoring the third rubber, Canada were in an ideal position to close out this Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie, but Raven Klaasen and Izak van der Merwe would have none of it.
The South African doubles duo recorded a surprise victory on Saturday to reduce the deficit to 2-1 against Canada, sending the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie into a deciding third day.
Klaasen and van der Merwe were the underdogs heading into their doubles clash with Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, but the South Africans cast aside the form book to prevail 64 76(3) 76(5) in 2 hours 32 minutes.
"When Izak and I were getting ready we knew that it would be an exciting challenge, but on these conditions if we serve halfway decent we give ourselves a chance and that's what happened today," Klaasen said.
Nestor made his 42nd appearance in a Davis Cup tie, which means the 40-year-old from Toronto has played nearly twice as many as all of the men on court with him combined. Nestor's staggering win-loss record in doubles rubbers fell to 29-6 and it was his first loss paired with Pospisil.
"They were just a little bit more solid, especially with their returns," said Nestor, who turned 40 on 4 September. "They put many more balls in play with quality."
South Africa led 5-2 in the third set but Nestor and Pospisil battled back to force a tiebreak, stirring partisan hopes from the Uniprix Stadium crowd.
"We knew that if we gave the crowd too much of a chance to get into this match that it could get away from us fast and that nearly happened at the end of the third set, when we opened the door slightly," Klaasen said. "So right up there, probably the best win for me of my doubles career and hopefully I can build off that win to the future."
Klaasen and van der Merwe won the only Davis Cup doubles rubber they had previously played together earlier this year.
"Izak and I have played over the last five years periodically together and we understand each other's games well so that confidence certainly helps things out there," Klaasen said. "It's not like I'm coming back to Davis Cup having to figure out he knows how I behave on court, I know how he behaves so there's nothing that surprises you out there anymore.”
Canada, who got straight set wins from Pospisil and Raonic on Friday, is hoping to keep their place among the World's elite, while South Africa are trying to earn promotion for the first time since 1998.
That remains a daunting task for the visitors as van der Merwe will have to get past Canadian No. 1 Raonic to keep his country's hopes alive.
"It's going to be interesting to play against Milos but I'm definitely going to focus on my game," van der Merwe said. "He has such a great serve so that part in his hands, but I can control the things I can and I'm going to really focus on that and try and play my best and see what happens."
Sunday's fifth and final rubber pits Pospisil against Nikala Scholtz, who lost to Raonic in his Davis Cup debut Friday, but that match depends on whether van der Merwe can produce the goods in the battle of the No. 1s.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain John-Laffnie de Jager (RSA) - 15/09/2012
Raven Klaasen and Izak van der Merwe (RSA) - 15/09/2012
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 15/09/2012