In the absence of their best player, Kevin Anderson, who chose not to play Davis Cup and explained his decision in this open letter, and Rik De Voest, injured and forced to retire before the draw yesterday, South Africa was relying on Izak Van Der Merwe, to act as their leader.
In the first rubber of the tie, Van Der Merwe was facing Canada’s n° 2 player, Vasek Pospisil, who was the slight favourite to take the win. After all, Pospisil is ranked 116th in the world, whereas Van der Merwe is the World n° 188. Furthermore, Pospisil is playing at home, which put the crowd balance in his favour.
When the match started, it seemed to make no doubt that Pospisil was the favourite to win the match, as he broke his opponent in the very first game of the match. However, the break was short-lived, and Pospisil was broken back shortly after. Nerves, perhaps? The Vancouver native, after the match, said it was so, that he started the match relaxed but then got tight, and felt like that throughout most of the match.
Nevertheless, Pospisil broke again right after, and this time, it was the right time and both players held their serve, until the Canadian played a nearly flawless service game to take the first set, 6-3.
The last two sets were somewhat a repeat of the first, minus Pospisil being broken back at some point during either set. However, he benefited mostly from the errors of the South African, who really wasn’t at his best, of his own post-match admission. Still suffering from “various niggles”, Van Der Merwe really tried his best, but it was quickly obvious that it wouldn’t be enough today.
However, we cannot say that he was outplayed or anything, merely that he couldn’t do himself justice and that he made way too many errors (48 for the match) to hope to turn the match in his favour.
In the end, Pospisil brought the first point to Canada, 6-3 6-4 6-4, over Izak Van Der Merwe, to the great joy of the (sadly rather sparse) crowd.
A good start for the local team, now awaiting to see if Milos Raonic will complete a perfect day.