Captain Alistair Hunt has opted for the experience of Rubin Statham and Michael Venus to play the singles rubbers for New Zealand in this week's crucial Asia Oceania Davis Cup Group 1 relegation tie against South Korea in Gimcheon.
The draw this afternoon has pitted Statham first on court from 2pm NZT tomorrow against Korean number two Seong Chan Hong. The match will be followed by Venus against Korean number one Duckhee Lee (ranked 231). Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell have been chosen for the doubles rubber on Saturday against Yong Kyu Lim and Jea Moon Lee. It will be followed by Statham against Lee and if needed Venus against Hong in a potential decider.
Nineteen-year-old Ajeet Rai was the other player in contention to play the singles but Hunt says he's not yet ready to be thrown into a live rubber.
"He's been coming along well. But it's always a big ask to put a young guy out there, especially if he hasn't played even played a dead rubber as well. We want to help these young guys and we are trying to put them into positions where they can succeed and get some confidence and kick on. "He's a confidence player and has had some good results during the year. Ajeet is working hard and is hitting the ball great and has a big serve and if he keeps working hard he can have a good future." Hunt said.
"The big bonus with being able to take five guys in the team is we can carry Ajeet who will learn a lot. Obviously we have Rubin who has been on the tour a lone time and the three doubles guys who are all top 50 in the world. So it's good for Ajeet to see the work ethic of those guys who are all professionals."
Venus has played Duckhee Lee once before and beat him in qualifying for the ATP tournament in Shenzhen in 2015, but the Korean was only 17 then and has improved greatly while Venus has focused exclusively on doubles on tour in recent years.
"Duckhee Lee hits a great ball and is a fantastic competitor. Mike's obviously going to have a pretty tough match with him on day one." Hunt said. "Mike hasn't had a singles since the last Davis Cup tie so it's a big ask for him. But he's had some enormous wins for New Zealand in Davis Cup and is looking forward to getting out there tomorrow."
The speed of the court has Hunt quietly confident his players can get the job done.
"I am pretty surprised at the court surface which is fast and suits us and will help Mike with his serve and volley and keeping the points short. It definitely helps our doubles guys as well. "Their guys are predominantly baseline counter punching sort of players so it will be interesting.
Kiwi number one Rubin Statham has played his Korean opponent twice in Davis Cup with both matches going to five sets.
"Rubin has been hitting the ball well and playing more Challengers than futures tournaments which has affected his ranking because the standard is tougher year round than what he normally does with the schedule. He will have a tough match against a guy he has played twice in Davis Cup over five sets both times. For Rubin it will be about adjusting to the pace of the court." Hunt said.
New Zealand will be confident experienced ATP pros Sitak and Daniell will win the doubles rubber but will need both Statham and Venus to produce their best in the singles.
"If we play well we have a really good chance and should be fine. If Mike and Rubin can play a good standard hopefully we should be ok. This court is so fast and I don't think there will be too many rallies. It's about execution and game plan and hopefully we are on the front foot." Hunt said.