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South Africa stay alive in Davis Cup tie vs. Canada with doubles win

Canada's Vasek Pospisil (L) and Daniel Nestor react following their loss against South Africa's Raven Klaasen and Izak Van der Merwe during Davis Cup doubles tennis action in Montreal, September 15, 2012.

Reuters

It's one of the signatures of South African tennis, and it has stalled Canada's romp to Davis Cup's elite final 16 for at least 24 hours.

Doubles, as South Africa captain John-Lafnie de Jager pointed out on Friday after his team went down 0-2 in the singles matches, is about the combination, and the regular Davis Cup duo of Raven Klaasen and Izak van der Merwe proved too much to handle for Canadian pair Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor.

If Canada is to win this weekend's tie - and automatic promotion to the prestigious World Group of tennis powers - it will have to be Sunday in one of the final two singles matches.

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Pospisil will face hard-hitting college player Nikala Scholtz while van der Merwe will face off against Canada's top player, world number 15 Milos Raonic, in the day's first match.

Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau had emphasized the need to finish the South Africans off quickly, but it wasn't to be - Nestor and Pospisil simply didn't play well enough, losing 4-6, 6-7, 6-7.

They committed 13 double-faults and 30 unforced errors between them, stats like those are hard to overcome even with the extra confidence that comes from having the home fans cheering you on.

With the teams on serve in an evenly-balanced first set, the 22-year-old Pospisil couldn't hold his serve in the ninth game, the South Africans broke, and quickly closed it out for 6-4.

But the second set is the one that will haunt the Canadians.

Up a break at 4-2, they started to fall apart. First Pospisil was broken, then Nestor, who has been ranked number one in world doubles for most of the year, double-faulted three times while serving for the set. Two games later, it was tie-break time and the South Africans prevailed (energized by having staved off four set-points at 5-6).

Despite some nervy moments in the third - the South Africans blew a 5-2 lead, squandered four match points and saw van der Merwe double-fault on game point with a chance to serve it out - Klaasen and van der Merwe ultimately hung on to win in another tiebreaker.

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Canada remains in the driver's seat for the tie - it would be a titanic upset if Raonic were to lose to the 188th-ranked van der Merwe - but against a team missing its two best players, they'll be frustrated at having squandered an opportunity to make the singles matches meaningless.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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