Johannesburg — South African Fed Cup captain Rene Plant has set targets for her team ahead of their Fed Cup tie at the National Tennis Centre hard court surfaces in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, from February 6-9.
South Africa gained promotion into the Euro/Africa Zone Group II of the Fed Cup competition last year, after beating Malta 2-1 in their playoff final on a clay court in Montenegro in April.
They will battle it out in the eight-nation event to solidify their position in Group II.
"It is going to be our main challenge to build on the momentum from last year and our objective is to stay in Group II," Plant emphasised at the team media open day and training session on Wednesday morning.
"We are trying to create a network of enthusiasm and encouragement on and off the court. Having won four matches last year we are hoping to create that same winning atmosphere in Luxembourg within the team."
The team comprises of Chanel Simmonds , Imaan Hassim , Sinazo Solani , Theresa van Zyl , Madrie le Roux and Zani Barnard .
Plant added: "Tennis South Africa has offered fantastic support to both myself and the players. We are arriving five days before our first match and this will enable us to prepare and bond as a team. All the players who are at colleges in the United States play in the number one position for their team - the likes of Zani, Theresa and Imaan. I am confident in the depth of our team and in our doubles combination. We have got a few different options that we can try out."
Barnard, the 19-year-old Witbank-born prodigy, will be the understudy in a formidable team. Simmonds, the 26-year-old crafty left hander who reached her best ranking of number 158 in the world in 2013, is the most experienced team member alongside the 23-year old Van Zyl. Hassim, Barnard and Solani are the youngest in the team.
"The team is very excited to have Rene represent us as captain," said Simmonds. "She manages the team well, having organised Fed Cup camps to ensure the juniors are integrated into our system has been a big plus and her knowledge and experience will be invaluable for us.
"It will be a dream come true to secure a second-place finish in our group and fight for promotion, Rene will be a massive benefit in helping us achieve that dream."
Current Fed Cup format:
Round-robin basis: Two pools of 4 teams (Pools: A & B).
The playoff round will be as follows: The winner of each pool will square off against the number two team in the other pool (A1 v B2 and B1 v A 2) to determine which two nations will advance to the Europe Africa Zone Group I in 2020.
In the relegation playoffs, the teams that finish third in each pool will square off against the nation finishing fourth in the other pool (A3 v B4 and B3 v A4). The two losing nations will be relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group III in 2020.
Read this report on News24Wire.com.
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