(photo credit: ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
With Yoni Erlich out injured, Israel Davis cup captain Eyal Ran believes home-court advantage could prove to be crucial in this weekend’s Group tie against Slovenia at the Drive-in arena in Tel Aviv.
Erlich underwent surgery on Monday to repair a meniscus tear suffered in the Wimbledon doubles quarterfinal last week and will be out for 4-6 weeks.
The injury came at a particularly frustrat ing time for the 38-year-old, who was limited by the tear in the Wimbledon semifinals, a match he lost with German partner Philipp Petzschner. Erlich was hoping to build on reaching just his third Grand Slam semifinal, but is now set to miss most of the North American hard-court season in the lead-up to the US Open.
The absence of Erlich significantly hurts Israel’s chances in Saturday’s doubles tie, but the blue-and-white remains a firm favorite to overcome an under-strength Slovenia.
For the first time since 2006, Israel lost in the first round of Group I in March, being thrashed 5-0 by Romania. A defeat to Slovenia will result in a tie against relegation to Group II later this year.
The Slovenians arrived in Israel without their top two players, Blaz Rola, ranked No. 101 in the world, and Blaz Kavcic (130). Grega Zemlja (301) will be Slovenia’s No. 1, with the rest of the squad not even being ranked in the top 1,000.
“We are really happy to be playing at home once more,” said Ran, with the blue-and-white hosting a tie in Israel for the first time since April 2012. “We know from past experience that playing in Israel gives the players a real push and that at home they are more committed and play better.”
Israel will be led by Dudi Sela (90) once more, with a Mir Weintraub (436) to make his return to the competition after missing the team’s past two ties due to his nine-month injury absence.
Ran will decide on Wednesday which two players will complete the squad, with Bar Botzer (692), Edan Leshem (739) and Ben Patael (789) all in contention.
“You never know what might happen in the Davis cup,” Sela said on Tuesday. “ It will be really fun to play in Israel for the first time in three years and I hope we can get the win.”
Weintraub, who suffered the serious groin injury in last April’s tie against Slovenia, can’t wait to get back on court.
“My body feels alright and I hope that with the support of the crowd the team can win,” he said. “To play in the Davis cup is one of the highlights of any player’s career and it was very difficult for me to watch from the sidelines. I really want to do well and I hope that the Davis cup also helps me in my comeback from injury.”
Erlich absence no excuse for Israel Davis Cup captain Israel NO . 1 Dudi Sela was all smiles during the national team’s training session at the Drive-in arena in Tel Aviv yesterday ahead of this weekend’s Davis cup Group I tie against Slovenia.