Bulgaria take the fight to SA in Davis Cup

14 September 2019 - 09:53 By CRAIG RAY
Lloyd Harris provided South Africa with the desired start with a 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-3 win over Bulgaria's Alexandar Lazarov in the opening rubber of the Europe/Africa Group II Davis Cup tie at Kelvin Grove Club on Friday.
Lloyd Harris provided South Africa with the desired start with a 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-3 win over Bulgaria's Alexandar Lazarov in the opening rubber of the Europe/Africa Group II Davis Cup tie at Kelvin Grove Club on Friday.
Image: Tennis South Africa

Bulgarian No 1 Dimitar Kuzmanov kept the visitors in the Davis Cup tie after beating South Africa No 2 Ruan Roelofse in the second match on day one in Cape Town to level the rubber at 1-1.

Kuzmanov, the No 324 in the world, won 7-5 7-5 to set up an intriguing day two after SA no 1 Lloyd Harris beat Alexandar Lazarov 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-3 in the opening match of the day.

Harris battled in two hours 36 minutes to subdue Lazarov, who found a way to neutralise Harris’ superior power with his deft touch, at the Kelvin Grove club.

Lazarov broke the big-serving Harris twice early in the second set but also dropped his own serve twice as the set headed to an inevitable tie break amidst some erratic line-calling that had Bulgarian captain Todor Enev remonstrating with chair umpire Jan Blom.

The young Bulgarian’s tactic of hitting slice backhands and regular drop shots had the 1.96m tall Harris scurrying at times.

“Keeping Harris low was part of my gameplan,” Lazarov said. “My slice backhand is my favourite shot so I tried to keep the ball low because he is a big guy.

“The drop shots also worked because the surface is slower than I expected.”

Harris, who appeared to be physically struggling at one stage, said he was feeling in good shape and admitted that Lazarov, ranked 521 to his 113, made it difficult at times.

“Yes, he used a lot of drops and slices to keep the ball low, which was smart of him,’ Harris said.

“It was not easy to hit winners off the no pace shots, but I think I handled it really well and figured it out eventually.”

Roelofse was rusty in his first Davis Cup singles match for six years. He is more of a doubles specialist at these and will partner Raven Klaasen in the third rubber on Saturday.

“Judging by the numbers as we started the day things ended up as they should,” SA captain Marcos Ondruska said. “We had two great singles matches.

“Lloyd came out of the gates really well and went 5-1 up with two breaks. The Bulgarian guy then mixed it up a little and made life a little tougher. But in the end Lloyd came through because he’s a quality player.

“I have to commend Ruan too because he’s coming back as a singles player and that’s tough to do. But he came close to taking this guy out.

“So we have mixed emotions because it was topsy turvy, but that’s what Davis Cup is about. It’s close but that’s what we were expecting.”

Kuzmanov, who is battling back from a knee injury and needed a medical time out towards the end of the match, was happy with where his team are after day one.

“South Africa are clearly the favourites in the match but after today the score could have been 2-0 to us, or it could have been 2-0 to them,” Kuzmanov said. “That’s how tight it’s been. So 1-1 is not a bad place to be.”

X