SA's doubles flop shocks De Jager
For the first time in more than 50 years, South Africa have failed to provide a single player in the men's doubles draw at the French Open grand slam event in Paris.
Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager, presently at Roland Garros to meet top South African player Kevin Anderson and discuss his availability for the forthcoming Davis Cup tie against Canada, found himself instead confronted with this unexpected and embarrassing news.
"The doubles has always been a forte of our players," said De Jager, himself a world-class doubles performer during his playing career.
"Arriving here and finding that none of our players have made it into the doubles draw was certainly a shock.
"Raven Klaasen is currently South Africa's top-ranked doubles player at 84th in the world, but that was not good enough to earn a place in the draw.
"Anderson, Rik De Voest and Izak van der Merwe have all been concentrating on improving their singles rankings so their doubles rankings have suffered as a consequence."
The present doubles famine contrasts with the impressive achievements at the French Open in the past of a whole host of world-class South Africans like the Eric Sturgess-Eustace Fannin combination, Abe Segal and Gordon Forbes, Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan, as well as Wesley Moodie, Wayne Ferreira, Cliff Drysdale and Johan Kriek.
Rubbing salt into De Jager's wounds is the fact that top Canadian doubles player Daniel Nestor and partner Max Mirnyi are seeded No 1 at this year's French Open.
De Jager said he had confirmed the Davis Cup availability of De Voest and Van der Merwe, who both lost in the opening qualifying round at Roland Garros.
He has delayed his discussions with Anderson until after the world's 34th-ranked player has completed his programme in the French Open.
"He has got enough on his mind right now and I don't want to distract him from the job at hand," said De Jager.
Having reached the third round of the singles, Anderson now faces the world's seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych, a player he has never beaten before.