It is last chance saloon time for the New Zealand Davis Cup team. Having lost to Uzbekistan and India this year, all that stands between New Zealand and tennis oblivion - otherwise known as Asia/Oceania Group II - is Chinese Taipei.
The tie starts in Kaohsiung tonight and the team go into it with the knowledge that if they lose again they can look forward to a long trip to Lebanon in February.
Of the 10 Davis Cup matches played by New Zealand this year, eight of them were lost and those two wins were meaningless dead rubbers.
So Davis Cup captain Marcel Vos knows the pressure is on.
"Obviously it is a big tie for us, it's a relegation match," Vos said from Kaohsiung City.
"We want to stay in Group One, we were promoted two years ago and it doesn't need much explanation as to why we're eager to get out there and get the win.
"This is obviously important for us and tennis in New Zealand."
Vos has chosen to go with Dan King-Turner and Michael Venus in the singles tonight against Tsung-Hua Yang and Ti Chen respectively, while in tomorrow's doubles Rubin Statham and Sitak will team up to play Liang-Chi Huang and Cheng-Peng Hsieh.
Chen at 201 and Yang (236) both have higher world rankings than New Zealand's top player, Rubin Statham, who is at 322.
But there are a couple of things to feel optimistic about from a New Zealand point of view, one is that Statham and King-Turner are both hugely experienced at Davis Cup tennis, both making their debuts in 2005.Several times in their careers they have been able to pull out wins for New Zealand against players ranked far higher than them.
"We have experienced campaigners and we're hoping that this helps and it should," said Vos.
"Coming into the tie we're playing some young guys and that's hopefully going to play a factor this weekend."
Another factor is that Michael Venus enters the tie on the back of winning a Futures tournament in Australia last week.
"Obviously it helps when a player is coming off a tournament win and has a lot of wins under his belt," said Vos.
Venus' success in Australia meant that he arrived in Australia later than the rest of the team but Vos said everyone has still settled in well.
"We have been here since Saturday, Mike came on Monday. Everything has gone well and we've been having good trainings.
"It is hot, but it's not nearly as humid as it was in India last month, so we're Ok with handling the conditions."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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