Mon, 19 Aug 2019

Cape Town - It will be the first time in almost two decades for South Africa to participate in the top segment of a major team tennis tournament if participation is confirmed for one of the 24 places in the ATP's inaugural ATP World Team Cup in January.

And it was heartening news this week when the ATP announced the first preliminary qualifying rankings for the Australian event, with South Africa in eighth place due to Kevin Anderson's current world ranking position of No 8.

But go-ahead South African-born World Team Cup tournament director Craig Tiley, who is also the CEO of the Australian Tennis Association and director of the Australian Open, on Tuesday explained why the final selections are far from complete - and in South Africa's case why so much depends on Anderson.

"Anderson's current ranking would most certainly assure South Africa's qualification," explained Tiley, "with the selections depending on the ranking of the country's top player.

"But we will only be going by the rankings as they stand in September and early-October," he added, "and a great deal can happen before then. In addition, South Africa's second ranked player, Lloyd Harris, is ranked 'round the 90s (currently 89th) and this would fall short of qualification."

Tiley also confirmed that if Anderson's ongoing ranking warranted South Africa's inclusion in the ATP World Team Cup, but the 32 year-old big server, who has been blighted by a frustrating elbow injury for much of the year, did not make himself available for the event, the country's qualification would then probably fall by the wayside.

Anderson, meanwhile, is still nursing the lingering elbow problem that caused him to withdraw from the entire clay court season, including the eagerly-awaited French Open Grand Slam event that gets underway on Sunday, with the intention of returning to action once the grass court season begins in June.

And of critical importance will be his readiness for the blue ribbon Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament in which he will be defending 1 200 ranking points after reaching last year's final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic.

Should South Africa's number one player's fitness hold out, there is every chance of his ranking being good enough to ensure ATP World Team Cup qualification, with the world's 13th ranked doubles player, Raven Klaasen, and the up-and-coming Harris helping to round off a competitive unit.

But, as Tiley has pointed out, it will all depend on Anderson - his ranking, his fitness and desire to participate in the World Team Cup, which will also act as a forerunner to the Australian Open and creates a different perspective to the Davis Cup for which South Africa's premier player has not made himself available for the past eight years.

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