(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Israel’s Fed Cup team opened its Europe/Africa Zone Group I campaign in Budapest, Hungary, with a resounding 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Wednesday.
Keren Shlomo, ranked No. 1,100 in the world, replaced the injured Shahar Pe’er and was thrashed 6-3, 6-0 in just 49 minutes by 17-year-old Croat Ana Konjuh (99).
Julia Glushko (146) at least put up a fight against Donna Vekic (84), but she was also ultimately beaten 6-1, 6-7, 7-5. Israel’s miserable day was capped by a 6-0, 6-0 loss in the doubles encounter, with Alona Pushkarevsky (1,148) and Shlomo being embarrassed by Konjuh and Darija Jurak.
Israel will face Belgium on Thursday and seems to have little hope of springing an upset regardless of Pe’er’s fitness.
Belgium is led by Kirsten Flipkens (59) and Yanina Wickmayer (66) and beat Latvia on Wednesday. Israel captain Amos Mansdorf may choose to rest Pe’er once more before the team faces Latvia in what seems set to be the tie which will decide last place in Pool D.
The pool winner will progress to a tie against the winner of Pool A for a place in the World Group II playoffs in April. The bottom-placed nation will also contest a playoff, with the loser to be relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2016.
Meanwhile, Dudi Sela (87) will face Denis Istomin (61) of Uzbekistan in the second round of the ATP tournament in Montpelier, France, on Thursday.
Sela seemed set to play Malek Jaziri of Tunisia, but he pulled out of his first round match against Istomin in suspicious circumstances on Wednesday after winning the first set 6-3.
In 2013, Jaziri withdrew from the Tashkent Challenger tournament before his match against Israel’s Amir Weintraub. Tunisia was ultimately suspended from the 2014 Davis Cup competition as the country’s tennis federation had ordered Jaziri to pull out.
Jaziri also withdrew from the doubles tournament in Montpelier, where he was due to team up with Marc Lopez to face Israeli Yoni Erlich and partner Frantisek Cermak, gifting them a place in the semifinals.
Erlich and Cermak claimed a victory on Wednesday over Phillip Oswald and Pakistani Muslim Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, who unlike Jaziri is not only happy to play Israelis but also teamed up with Amir Hadad in the past.