CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s leading tennis players have missed out on a golden opportunity to rub shoulders with the world’s best at the ATP Cup ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne in February.
Due to calendar shifts related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 ATP Cup field was downsized from 24 to 12 teams and SA who are hovering in 14th place in the team rankings, missed out. The world’s 11 leading teams and host country Australia qualified for the event starting on 1 February.
SA needed one of their singles players to have a much higher world ranking as was the case in January 2020 when Kevin Anderson was listed in the world’s top 10. Presently, Anderson is at 82 and Lloyd Harris is at 90 on the latest rankings.
The 38-year-old doubles specialist Raven Klaasen is presently SA’s highest-ranked player. He has a world doubles ranking of 18 and that alone helps the team to reach a top 20 place.
This year’s field includes world No 1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal (2), Dominic Thiem (3), Daniil Medvedev (4), Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) and Alexander Zverev (7). Normally, SA do not face world top 10 teams in the Davis Cup.
Last year SA managed one pool win out of three matches after they beat Chile.
Jeff Coetzee, Tennis SA’s director of tennis, said South Africans would have loved to have been part of the event again. He added that since this year’s event will be a week before the Australian Open, SA’s leading players would have been up against players who were playing in the year’s first grand slam.
“We were so privileged to be part of such a unique event last year,” said Coetzee.
“We did well as a team and we’re looking forward to being part of the ATP Cup in 2021.
“We are all disappointed that we could not be part of the 2021 ATP Cup. Last year we could measure ourselves against the world’s leading players, and who will forget how Djokovic only just made it past Kevin Anderson.
“We were also able to include 17-year-old Khololwam Montsi in the team and as one of the country’s finest prospects he was able to learn so much in the team environment.”
Klaasen said ATP Cup helped to provide a unique team environment at the start of the year.
“We enjoyed success and memories from the event last year. We are looking forward to playing the ATP Cup in 2022 when hopefully the field will return to 24 teams,” said Klaasen.
The Australian Open starts on 8 February.