Davis Cup Captain Kelly Evernden names five strong team for next month’s Davis Cup World Group 1 Play-Off
Captain Kelly Evernden names a five strong team for next month’s Davis Cup World Group 1 playoff tie against Bulgaria in Christchurch.
The team features the return of New Zealand’s most experienced Davis Cup player Rubin Statham who has played the most ties (33) and has won more singles matches (28) than any other New Zealander. The 35-year-old made his debut in 2004. He was unavailable for last September’s tie in Finland but returns to compete with Ajeet Rai and KP Pannu to play the singles rubbers. Statham reached the quarter finals at the Noumea ATP Challenger tournament last week and beat 171st ranked Geoffrey Blancaneaux before narrowly losing to 172nd ranked Laurent Lokoli.
Captain Kelly Evernden felt the competition for the two singles spots would bring out the best in Statham, Rai and Pannu.
“I am happy to have Rubin be a part of the team after missing the Finland Tie. He is excited to play in NZ and his history with Davis Cup speaks for itself.” Evernden said.
Rai will look to build on his strong showing at the ASB Classic where he beat Japan’s world number 92 Taro Daniel in the first round of qualifying before losing to 71st ranked Thiago Monteiro in a tight three set match. Pannu who won the ASB Classic wildcard playoff and the ITF World Tour event in Papamoa would have learnt plenty from his ASB Classic match against former world number seven Richard Gasquet.
“Lately the younger members have been showing some grit and higher quality tennis that has begun to build some belief in their abilities going forward. Ajeet and KP have both won tournaments and played inspired tennis at the ASB. Hopefully we can continue this momentum during our training prior to the Christchurch tie which will include a wider practice squad including Jack Loutit Corban Crowther and Finn Reynolds.” Evernden said.
New Zealand’s top ranked doubles player Michael Venus (14) will again be partnered by Artem Sitak (132) with Venus’s Tokyo Olympics bronze medal winning partner Marcus Daniell still side-lined by injury.
“I’m hoping not to see Mike or Artem until after one of them wins the Australian Open. Mike and Artem bring their professionalism and humour that is infectious and necessary to keep the group in good spirits.”
Bulgaria’s top ranked player is world number 29 Grigor Dimitrov but he has not played Davis Cup for a number of years and it’s unknown whether he will make himself available for the tie. Regardless whether the former world 4 plays the Eastern Europeans will present a formidable challenge. Their second ranked player Dimitar Kuzmanov is ranked 182 with Adrian Andreev at 191.
“Being able to play in New Zealand for a home Davis Cup Tie is incredible. I can’t wait for our team to finally have the home support of the great New Zealand fans.” Evernden said.
The tie is being played on the Wilding Park outdoor hardcourts on the 4th and 5th of February. The winner advances to a World Group 1 tie in September with the loser relegated to World Group 2.
Purchase your tickets now at: https://daviscup.eventbrite.co.nz
Davis Cup World Group 1 Play Off- NZ vs Bulgaria
Wilding Park Tennis Centre, Christchurch
Day 1 : 4 February, 12pm start – 2 x singles rubbers
Day 2: 5 February, 11am start – 1 x doubles rubber, followed by 2 x singles rubbers (final rubber only if required)
NZ Davis Cup Team (Ties Played):
- Rubin Statham (33)
- Michael Venus (22)
- Artem Sitak (19)
- Ajeet Rai (5)
- KP Pannu (1)