PRETORIA, South Africa – For Ole Miss men’s tennis junior Nik Scholtz, his third Davis Cup appearance for his native country, South Africa, was perhaps his biggest tennis moment in the spotlight. Playing at home and facing a difficult task, he rose to the occasion and delivered a huge win when his team needed it most, to help South Africa defeat Monaco 3-2 and advance in Group Two.
Rain delayed the start of play on the opening day last Friday. By the time Scholtz took to the courts late afternoon at the Irene Country Club against world No. 276 Benjamin Balleret, his team trailed 0-1. Scholtz won the first set 7-5, but fell behind 1-3 in the second before play was suspended for the night. When play resumed on Saturday, the Caledon native fought back to force a tiebreaker, which he won 7-6(3) to take a two sets to love lead. Balleret, with over 10 years of experience in Davis Cup, won the next two sets 6-3 to even up the match. With the pressure squarely on Scholtz to avoid his team going down 0-2, he broke and won the deciding set 6-3 to even the tie at 1-1.
The win over Balleret marked the first big Davis Cup victory for the two-time collegiate All-American.
“It’s huge,” Scholtz said of his win over Balleret. “I have never played Davis Cup for my country in South Africa. It was pretty emotional after the win. It meant a lot having my parents there and my family and people who have been with me through all these years to where I am now. It’s been a long journey, and while this is not the end of the road, it’s definitely a small payoff for all the work that I have put in my whole life.”
South Africa won the doubles to take a 2-1 lead heading into the final day of play on Sunday, and then clinched the victory on Sunday winning the first singles match in straight sets.
With the win over Monaco, South Africa advances in Group Two to face Lithuania April 4-6 in South Africa.
As Scholtz turns his attention back to the collegiate season, he looks to build on his 2-0 start in dual singles this spring and improve his national ranking of No. 15 in singles.
“This was a big win for Nik,” Rebel head coach Billy Chadwick said. “Nik gave South Africa a victory when they needed it most, and that is the mark of a true champion. All of the Ole Miss family is proud of him.”
Scholtz and the Ole Miss men’s tennis team return to action Friday with a doubleheader against Southern Miss beginning at 10 a.m. at the Gillom Sports Center.
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