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Raven Klaasen © Gallo Images

Key Davis Cup battle live



South Africans will be fighting for their lives in the Euro-Africa Group One relegation decider against Russia which gets underway at the sumptuous Olympic Stadium in Moscow on Friday.

The vital tie will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

In what will be the third and probably most important Davis Cup meeting between the two countries, with each having won one of the previous encounters, the losers will plummet ignominiously down the 125-team tournament ladder into the Euro-Africa Group Two segment in 2014.

South Africa have played in Euro-Africa Group One since 2009 and ironically before the critical showdown against Russia came within a whisker of regaining a place in the competition's elite World Group for the first time since 1998 before falling at the last hurdle in consecutive play-offs against India, Germany, Croatia and Canada during the past four years.

This time, however, it is a matter of survival, with South Africa approaching the match that will be played on an indoor, hardcourt surface on Friday (two singles games), Saturday (one doubles match) and Sunday (the final two singles), unable to consider for selection seven top players, among them world number 20 Kevin Anderson, and with the stark label of clear underdogs.

Without the unavailable Anderson and Fritz Wolmarans, perennial Davis Cup stalwart Rik de Voest, whose wife will be expecting the couple’s first child at the time of the Moscow tie, Nikala Scholz, who has commitments at his American university, and the injury-affected Izak van der Merwe, Ruan Roelefse and Jean Andersen, newcomers Dean O’Brien, ranked 563rd in the world, and Tucker Vorster, 589th, are expected to make their daunting Davis Cup debuts in the opening two singles matches.

If South Africa do have an ace in their pack, it is the presence of Raven Klaasen, who at 43rd in the world is the highest-ranked doubles player in the tie.

And a further degree of comfort for South Africa is that Russia’s three leading players, a formidable trio indeed in Mikhail Youzhny, 21st in the world, Dmitry Tursonov, 39th, and Nikolay Davedenko, 49th, have also declared themselves unavailable for “mission Moscow”.

But led by the world's 80th-ranked Alex Bogomolov jnr and Andrey Kuznetsov, 138th, with more than adequate support from Konstantin Kravchuck and the highly promising 17 year-old Karen Khachanov, spoken of as a world top tenner of the future, Russia have the resources to remain in the Euro-Africa Group One.

“However,” says South African non-playing team captain John-Laffnie de Jager, “funny things often happen in Davis Cup ties, with upsets not that unusual in the emotional climate - and we could come up with another such one.

“Either way,” added De Jager, “I am confident the players I have chosen will give their all and push the Russians to the best of their ability.”

BROADCAST DETAILS (all times are CAT, SA, GMT+2)

Fri 25 October
Day 1 (Singles)
SS8 (1pm)

Sat 26 October
Day 2 (Doubles)
SS8 (12pm)

Sun 27 October
Day 3 (Reverse Singles)
SS8 (11am)

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