MOSCOW, October 24 (R-Sport) – Seventeen-year-old tennis prodigy Karen Khachanov is to start Russia's bid to avoid a second-straight Davis Cup demotion against South Africa on Friday after the draw was made Thursday.
Khachanov, who is ranked a lowly 513th, made a name for himself last week by beating Janko Tipsarevic to reach the quarterfinal of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, only his second Association of Tennis Professionals tournament.
On Friday, he will have Russian expectations on his shoulders as he plays 563rd-ranked Dean O'Brien in his first ever five-setter, the opening match of a tie in which the losing nation will be relegated to the third tier of the world's men's tennis competition.
Later Friday, world No. 80 Alex Bogomolov Jr. takes on Jacob Coenraad De Klerk, 1485th in the rankings, and Saturday will see a doubles clash between the Russian pair of Andrey Kuznetsov and Konstantin Kravchuk and South Africa's Tucker Vorster and Raven Klaasen. The last two single matches are scheduled for Sunday.
“We have created a mix of youth and experience,” Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev said.
“In the first two days, we're letting all four players on court and then we’ll see who to choose for Sunday. Khachanov will play the first five-set match of his career, so it’s good that he will go out on court first.”
Russia's team is completely changed from the foursome who lost to Britain in April, which ended their hopes of returning to the top-level World Group.
Bogomolov, 30, is the only one in the team who has Davis Cup experience, having lost all of his four matches.
The South African team features three players who have never participated in ATP or Davis Cup events, as well as the 31-year-old Klaasen, who has won three doubles tournaments this year. National No. 1 Kevin Anderson has opted to play in the Valencia Open instead.
The tie will be played on the indoor courts of Moscow's Olimpiisky Sports Complex, which hosted the first meeting between the two nations in 1995, when Russia won 4-1. South Africa took revenge in their only other meeting to date, in Durban in 1997, winning by a score of 3-1.