The draw for the upcoming Davis Cup Qualifiers that will take place between February 1-2, 2019, has been almost completed, with Portugal defeating South Africa 4-0 at the Club Internacional de Foot-Ball in Lisbon on outdoor clay courts to secure the place among the 24 countries that will fight for the 12 spots at the Davis Cup finals in November. Portugal will face Kazakhstan or Canada and we will know all 12 ties after the next week's clash between Slovakia and Belarus that completes the 2018 Davis Cup action before the season-ending final between France and Croatia in Lille.
Portugal and South Africa had met for the first time in 1926 and just like in their previous meeting in 2003 there was no drama on the court, with the home team controlling the scoreboard from start to finish to earn a chance of reaching the finals next year.
World number 140 Pedro Sousa kicked off the action for Portugal, defeating an in-form youngster Lloyd Harris 6-1 6-1 in 48 minutes to deliver the opening point for his country. Harris is on a verge of entering the Top 100 but he stood no chance in this one, traveling to Lisbon from Fairfield where he played a Challenger on hard courts last week, with no time to make a transition to clay.
This was the ninth Davis Cup singles rubber win for Sousa in 12 matches, serving at 83% and dropping just eight points in his games to face no break points. On the other hand, this was the third Davis Cup singles match on clay for Lloyd and he still seeks the first win, winning just 17 out of 41 points on serve and getting broken five times fro eight chances he gave to his rival.
Sousa took charge right from the start, breaking in the opening game of the match and scoring two more breaks of serve in games three and seven for a 6-1, hoping for more of the same in set number two. There, he won five games in a row from 1-1, breaking Harris in games four and six and finishing the job on the third match point at 5-1 to move Portugal 1-0 in front.
Joao Sousa has always been a dedicated Davis Cup player, competing under the Portuguese flag for the last 10 years and in 52 rubbers. He has scored his 23rd singles win (11-4 on clay) following a commanding 6-3 6-2 win against Nicolaas Scholtz in an hour and seven minutes to secure the second point for his team.
Scholtz created four break chances and he scored one break, not enough for a more positive result after losing the ground in his service games, allowing Sousa to earn seven break points and suffering four breaks to end on the losing side.
They traded breaks at the start of the match and it was Joao who took charge in the closing stages, winning 12 of the 15 points at 3-3 to take the opener 6-3 and gain the momentum that carried him in set number two as well.
Sousa sailed through his service games in the second part of the match and he broke the South African in games one and five before sealing the deal with a hold at 15 in game eight, sending Portugal closer to the finish line.
On Saturday, Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias joined forces to edge Raven Klaasen and James Roelofse 6-4 6-7 6-2 in two hours and eight minutes for the third and decisive point, never losing their serve and breaking rivals three times to wrap up the win and keep Portugal in the elite group.
If they had lost this tie, it would have been Israel who clinched the spot in the Davis Cup Qualifiers instead of Portugal but that wasn't likely to happen on clay and in front of the home fans. Results: