South Africa’s Jean Andersen has been handed the ultimate baptism of fire on his Davis Cup debut after being drawn against Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz in the first rubber of their Europe/Africa second round clash.
Poland has made its intent to secure a place in September’s World Group play-offs abundantly clear by fielding a strong team headed by world No. 24 Janowicz, but South Africa captain John-Laffnie De Jager insists that his team, and debutant Andersen in particular, will put up a stern fight.
“Jean is prepared for this match,” said De Jager of the 24-year-old, whose ranking is a lowly No. 758. “He knows what he has to do on the court. For a youngster like him it's even better to play the opening match and not wait and wonder whether he is going to start a match while 1-0 up or the other way round. Also we've got a very good record of Davis Cup ties with Rik [De Voest] playing the second match. So the draw is good for us.”
Andersen comes in as a replacement for injured doubles world No. 55 Raven Klaasen, whose absence is a blow to South Africa’s hopes of reaching the World Group play-offs for a fifth successive year.
“It always hurts a team when a player of his calibre is out of the tie. He is our No. 1 in doubles and a Top 50 player, but I have confidence in my team. They are well prepared and ready for the opening day and the doubles match on Saturday."
World No. 91 Lukasz Kubot is due to take on former doubles partner De Voest in the second singles rubber, before Miami finalists Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg provide a huge test for De Voest and Ruan Roelofse in Saturday’s doubles.
"We cannot deny we are the favourites for this tie," admitted Polish captain Radoslaw Szymanik, but cautiously adding: "We are far from underestimating our opponents"
Meanwhile, Dan Evans will take on Dmitry Tursunov, ranked more than 250 places above him, in Great Britain’s second round tie against Russia at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry after coming in as a late replacement for Jamie Baker.
World No. 214 James Ward will play the second rubber for Britain against promising 22-year-old Evgeny Donskoy, ranked 134 spots above him, while Colin Fleming and Johnny Marray will contest a very winnable doubles rubber against Victor Baluda and Igor Kunitsyn.
Watch Great Britain v Russia live.
In the other two Europe/Africa Group I second round ties, Robin Haase opens up for Netherlands against Adrian Ungur in their visit to Brasov, before Igor Sijsling challenges Victor Hanescu, while Alexandr Dolgopolov will be favoured to give Ukraine a winning start against Isak Arvidsson before world No. 242 Denys Molchanov takes on No. 642 Markus Eriksson.
For the full draw from this weekend's Europe/Africa Zone Group I ties, click the relevant link below:
Great Britain v Russia
Poland v South Africa
Romania v Netherlands
Ukraine v Sweden