EUROPE/AFRICA ZONE GROUP I: In every aspect, Kevin Anderson was the big man in South Africa's 3-1 win against the Netherlands to advance them to the World Group play-offs of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. The tallest man of the tie guaranteed victory with a 63 36 62 62 over Robin Haase, his third point of the weekend.
Anderson, standing at 203 centimetres, hadn't lost serve in Potchefstroom in the first two days of the tie, but things didn't go as smoothly for a while in the fight of the respective No. 1 players. After winning the first set, Anderson was broken three consecutive times as Haase took the second set and then an early 2-0 lead in the third. The momentum seemed completely in the hands of the visitor as he won the first eight points of the set.
But quickly the Dutch hope vanished again as Anderson maintained his level of play, whereas Haase was unable to do so. After 2 hours 33 minutes, the hosts could celebrate their third successive qualification for the play-offs.
Contrary to the last two years, which saw defeats against Germany and India in the showdown, the Davis Cup winners of 1974 now have legitimate reasons to hope to regain the elite. Captain John-Laffnie de Jager knew whom he had to thank: "We can really be happy that Kevin has decided to play again. Everybody could see the difference between a team with him and one without him."
In fact, the captain couldn't have dreamt of a better leader than Anderson was this weekend. The world No. 35 won the opening rubber, was the best man in doubles and then extended his Davis Cup win-loss to a nearly perfect 8-1 by beating the opponents best force.
Anderson hadn't played for his country in the past two years, but found inspiration in the hottest player of the moment, who had put his career onto a different level last year by winning Davis Cup. "What Novak Djokovic does is very impressive. If playing Davis Cup means getting to a level like he has reached, then I'll be playing Davis Cup for the rest of my life,“ Anderson said.
Of course, spirits were subdued in the Dutch camp, before they headed back to Johannesburg, where they caught a flight back late on Sunday. Robin Haase was very self-critical: "I can't be but very disappointed in myself. I had the momentum and wasn't able to keep it."
In Bern, the Swiss team whitewashed Portugal despite giving a well-deserved break to Roger Federer on the final day. "It was a very intense week for Roger, so we don't want to take any risks,“ captain Severin Luthi said, who is also Federer’s coach on tour (together with Paul Annacone).
Federer’s substitute, childhood friend Marco Chiudinelli, gave the Swiss the fourth point with a 63 64 against Joao Sousa in 77 minutes. Stanislas Wawrinka then beat Leonardo Tavares 76(1) 60 in the final match to give a fitting end to the party.
Of course, the interest in Bern in the days leading up to the tie and during the weekend as well, was mostly focused on Federer. The superstar was once again very generous with his time and satisfied as many wishes as possible. The Swiss are now anxiously waiting for the World Group play-offs draw on Wednesday and hope for another home game, which would likely be held in the French part of the country. While Federer hasn't confirmed his participation yet, the odds seem to be very good that he'll be part of the team again.
In Arzachena, the Italians also made short work of their Slovenian opponents on the final day to keep their clean sheet. Fabio Fognini was leading 62 22 against Aljaz Bedene when the Slovenian substitute had to retire. Simone Bolelli then beat Grega Zemlja 75 63 in the last match.
The Italians will aksi quickly turned their attention towards London where the draw will be held. Barazzutti has a lot of confidence in his players who want to return to the elite 16 for the first time in eleven years. "Of course, we need a bit of luck but it's not only that. We have a very strong team and won't be easy to beat."