SA set to wrap up Davis Cup tie against Estonia on Saturday

03 February 2017 - 18:40 By David Isaacson

South Africa seem set to wrap up their Europe/Africa Group II Davis Cup tie against Estonia at Irene Country Club‚ Pretoria‚ today when they take a 2-0 lead into the doubles match.

Nik Scholtz of South Africa in action against Jurgen Zopp of Estonia during the opening singles of the Davis Cup tie between South Africa and Estonia at the Irene Country Club on February 03, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. File photo
Nik Scholtz of South Africa in action against Jurgen Zopp of Estonia during the opening singles of the Davis Cup tie between South Africa and Estonia at the Irene Country Club on February 03, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. File photo
Image: Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images

In a major blow‚ the visitors’ top player‚ Jurgen Zopp‚ withdrew injured in the first match against Nik Scholtz while trailing 6-4 4-6 3-6.

Lloyd Harris blew away Vladimir Ivanov 6-4 6-3 6-2 in the later game.

Zopp quit before the start of the fourth set after receiving medical attention for an abdominal muscle strain which was particularly painful while serving.

He could not say if he would play again in the tie.

“The serve is the most important shot in these conditions‚” said Zopp who‚ at 317 in the world‚ was 200 ranking points above Scholtz and was central to Estonia’s chances here.

“I was feeling it for quite some time‚ but hoping the adrenaline would get me through. I feel so bad for my team‚ I feel like I let them down.”

Scholtz had survived some scares in the second and third sets‚ having to save a clutch of break points in all; he rallied from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the third.

“The first set wasn’t my best‚ but I did real well to hang in there and persevere and wait for the dam to break. He had a lot of break points in the second set on my serve‚” said Scholtz‚ whose only break point doubled as the set point for the second stanza.

“A medium-paced ball came and it sat up a bit and I just decided I’m going to close my eyes and go for it.”

Scholtz suffered a nose bleed early in the third set‚ but he insisted he was never in trouble. “I was talking to Marcos and all of a sudden I just felt my nose dripping and I looked at it was all over my pants.

“But I wasn’t too worried. I thought it’s just the dry and the heat.”

SA captain Marcos Ondruska had noted there was something wrong with Zopp.

“It would have been six service games of his before the end‚ there was a point where all of a sudden he was hitting good second serves but his first serves he was just sort of rolling in.”

Scholtz served 21 aces to Zopp’s eight over the three sets‚ and the Estonian’s count went from three in the first and four in the second to just one in the third.

“You sit there thinking why’s this different‚ how’s this different?” said Ondruska. “We had these conversations with Nik and we started targeting that.”

The sudden end to that match meant Harris was caught slightly with his guard down. “I didn’t eat yet so I got some food in me quickly — you don’t want to go out there for a five-set match not having eaten.

“It was a little bit fast for me‚” said Harris‚ who looked in control from the start.

“I was holding serve really comfortably and I felt I played a little bit more solid than he did.”

Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse are scheduled to face the unheralded combination of Kenneth Raisma and Mattias Siimar.

It’s possible to substitute players until an hour before play‚ but the big question is whether Zopp‚ who has traditionally played in every doubles match for Estonia‚ will be ready today.