The Turning Point
Having lost to South Africa, Slovenian tennis players missed an excellent opportunity to knock on the door of the World Group in the Davis Cup. The women’s team lost against France.
Not long ago, Slovenia would have given its right arm to be where they are now but it is only natural to aim ever higher. The men’s team played against South Africa in Johannesburg and after the host team’s best players cancelled their participation, it seemed that the door was wide open for Blaž Kavčič and Grega Žemlja. They took the job seriously, departed for Johannesburg the week before and took a psychologist with them. However, only Kavčič managed to win a match and the team lost 4-1.
”There was a feeling in Slovenia that we were favourites but I had known that it was going to be difficult, especially in the light of special conditions at high altitude in Johannesburg. We were unlucky with the draw. If we had played in Slovenia I am sure we would have won 4-1,” said team coach, Blaž Trupej. Slovenia reached their goal for the season anyway when it secured its place in the first Euro/African Zone after beating Denmark in February.
Meanwhile, the women’s team lost 5-0 against France in the Federation Cup and was relegated to the first Euro/African Zone. Things could have been different if Slovenia’s best player, Polona Hercog (ranked 37th on the WTA rankings) hadn’t withdrawn due to injury.
At the personal level, Kavčič and Žemlja haven’t made the progress they had expected. Kavčič in particular was aiming for the top 50 after reaching 72 on the ATP rankings in June last year. He then suffered from injury which hindered his progress. He also changed his coach, replacing Romanian Adrian Voinea with Blaž Trupej. He was happy with Voinea but he needed someone to be with him on a daily basis. Their immediate goals are to improve the ATP ranking (currently 105) and to improve on his best grand slam result (third round) while the long-term goal is to make it into the top 50 on the ATP rankings.
Having long lived in Kavčič’s shadow, Žemlja is now quite evenly matched with Kavčič, at least in terms of the ATP ranking (126). At 25 years of age time is still on their side but it is clear that the “make or break” point is here. Recently, Kavčič and Žemlja have been trailed by Aljaž Bedene, 22, who has made tremendous progress. Last year alone he climbed from 420 to 161 in the rankings.