The announcement of the South African Davis Cup team on Tuesday was a far cry from that of the halcyon days of the 1970s and 1990s when the country won the world's premier team tennis competition on one occasion and invariably were a force to be reckoned with in the elite World Group.
This time the squad comprising Rik de Voest, Wesley Moodie, Jeff Coetzee and Fritz Wolmerans will be participating in Tunisia from May 8th to the 13th in the Europe/Africa Zone Group III, which in soccer terminology would be classified as the fourth division of the Davis Cup.
But with SA Airways now serving up muscle and clout to tennis in the country as substantial and enthusiastic sponsors, South African Tennis Association (Sata) CEO Ian Smith said in announcing a team that will be captained by John Laffnie de Jager that the light at the end of the tunnel was now visible "and the sport is heading for an upswing in the country."
"The successful re-introduction of a South African Open in Durban in January was the first positive sign," added the Sata CEO. "Now we are able to announce a Davis Cup squad for the first time in a number of years that is at full-strength and includes all our best players."
And although South Africa now occupy 54th position in the ITF Davis Cup rankings -- almost as bad as 60th-placed Bafana Bafana in the Fifa rankings -- there is every opportunity of positive progress at the La Marsa Stadium in Tunisia against opponents who are all lower down in the official ratings.
Although Zimbabwe will be next best to South Africa in 60th place in Tunisia, they are unlikely to have at their calling either of the once-formidable Black brothers and it is the 75th-placed host nation who could pose the most serious problems particularly as the event will be played on slow, unfamiliar clay courts.
But with De Voest and Moodie comprising the highest-ranked individual players in a tournament that will also include teams from Ghana, The Ivory Coast, Namibia and Madagascar, as well as the Zimbabweans and Tunisians, South Africa have an inviting opportunity of, at least, gaining promotion and progressing to the the Europe/Africa Zone Group II segment.
The big-serving Moodie, South Africa's number two in recent years, has slipped to a 135th ATP ranking and has been superceded by De Voest, who has moved up to the 133st position and would therefore presumably play as number one in the Davis Cup. Although the ITF have yet to announce the exact format in Tunisia, it is possible the eight teams will be divided into two round robin groups of four, with the winners contesting the final.
I might just have to go!