South Africa’s women tennis team finished sixth in the Billie Jean King Cup Euro / Africa Group III after being beaten by Ireland 2-1 during their 5th-6th play-off tie in Vilnius, Luthiania on Saturday, 19 June 2021.
Lara van der Merwe lost the opening singles rubber against Celine Simunyu in an evenly contested encounter, with the Irish winning 7-6(2), 6-4 to put Ireland ahead with a 1-0 lead.
The country’s leading women’s player, Chanel Simmonds, brought the tie back to 1-1 when she beat Anna Bowtell 6-2 6-4 in the second singles match. Simmonds showcased her class and skill for the stunning victory.
However, the team’s momentum was broken when the courageous Simmonds and van der Merwe went down in the doubles rubber. The South African pair fought hard but could not overcome their opponents, losing 6-3, 6-4 to Sophia Derivan and Shaun Heffernan.
Despite the loss, team captain Roxanne Clarke was full of praises of her charges and their buoyant display against Ireland, saying: “This was a tough loss, but I think it was our best fight of the tournament. It’s hard to end the tournament with a loss but we will go home with lots of lessons learned. I think we are all optimistic about the future of this team.”
South Africa lost to Ireland 1-2
Lara van der Merwe (RSA) lost to Celine Simunyu (IRL) 7-6(2), 6-4
Chanel Simmonds (RSA) d. Anna Bowtell (IRL) 6-2 6-4
Chanel Simmonds / Lara van der Merwe (RSA) lost to Sophia Derivan / Shaun Heffernan (IRL) 6-3, 6-4
Photo 1 Caption: Pictured at the start of their tournament in Lithuania, Team South Africa at the Billie Jean King Cup Euro / Africa Group III in Vilnius were (from left) Lara van der Merwe, Chanel Simmonds, Roxanne Clarke (captain), Delien Kleinhans and Kelly Arends. Photo: Tennis South Africa
With editing by gsport