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Photo by: Asaf Kliger
Ram-less Israel in for a first-round adventure in France
By ALLON SINAI
01/02/2013
Tennis star fails to recover from the hip injury that has kept him out of action in the past four months.
 
Any minuscule chance Israel may have had of overcoming France in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group in Rouen this weekend likely evaporated on Thursday after it was announced that Andy Ram had failed to recover from the hip injury that has kept him out of action in the past four months.

Ram, who injured his hip during Israel’s 3-2 victory over Japan in the World Group playoffs in September, said last week that “I’m going to play with Yoni as always and I hope to claim a win as always.”

However, despite his optimistic words, he was ruled unfit on Thursday and will be replaced in the doubles match by Dudi Sela, who will team-up with Yoni Erlich.

Noam Okun, who retired two years ago and traveled to France as a coach, will take Ram’s place on the team to provide backup should another player fall ill or suffer an injury.

“I’m really disappointed that I’m not fit, but unfortunately I am physically unable to take part in this tie,” Ram said.

“I will try and help the team with my experience and by supporting it from the sidelines.”

Even with a fully fit Ram Israel would have entered the tie as a massive underdog, with France’s squad boasting world No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, another top-10 player in Richard Gasquet (10) and veteran doubles experts Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.

Tsonga beat Gasquet in the fourth round of the Australian Open last week before losing to Roger Federer in the quarterfinals in Melbourne.

There was at least some good news on the injury front for Israel on Thursday, with Amir Weintraub being passed fit to play after recovering from a foot infection.

Weintraub (173), who won his first ever Grand Slam main draw match in Melbourne, was drawn to face Tsonga in the opening singles rubber on Friday, with Sela (106) to play Gasquet in the second match of the day.

Sela and Erlich are expected to come up against Benneteau and Llodra in Saturday’s doubles match and Israel will be delighted if it’s still alive in the best-of-five tie entering the reverse singles on Sunday.

“We were expecting Ram to be fit, but unfortunately he’s not ready for a five-set match and playing on Saturday could risk the rest of his season,” said captain Eyal Ran.

“As a result, a great responsibility will fall on our leading player, Dudi Sela. We prepared ourselves for this scenario during the week and we know Dudi will do his best.”

Sela is looking forward to three busy days.

“This is the first time in over three years that I was drawn to play second in the opening day, but I’m not sure if that’s good or bad,” said Sela. “I feel good and I’m in great shape and I’m determined to win my match.”
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