Israel’s Davis Cup tie against Slovenia for a place in the World Group playoffs will be decided in a marathon final day on Sunday after Saturday’s doubles match was postponed due to rain in Portoroz.
Amir Weintraub, ranked No. 198 in the world, handed Israel the lead with an impressive 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Blaz Kavcic (121) after three hours and 53 minutes. However, the Europe/Africa Zone Group I tie will enter its final day tied at 1-1 after Dudi Sela (69) dropped to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Blaz Rola (118) in Friday’s second singles match.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich were set to come up against Rola and Grega Zemlja in the doubles on Saturday, but rain throughout the day delayed the encounter to Sunday. The doubles encounter will be followed by the reverse singles, with Sela to face Kavcic before Weintraub plays Rola.
Considering he is also scheduled to play in the fifth and final rubber, Rola may well be replaced by Janez Semrajc in the doubles.
In the opening match of the tie, Weintraub found himself in an early deficit after dropping the first set, only to seize control of the match by controlling the second and third sets.
The Israeli squandered a couple of break points in the sixth and eighth games of the second set, but finally took his chance on Kavcic’s serve in the 12th game to tie up the match. Weintraub raced to a 3-0 lead in the third set and seemed to be cruising after also breaking serve early in the fourth.
However, the Slovenian quickly tied the score in the set before sending the contest to a decisive fifth set.
Weintraub twice found himself down a break in the decider, but he never lost hope and clinched the win with his third break of the set after Kavcic committed a double fault on the Israeli’s first match point.
Sela struggled from the start of his match versus Rola, but is confident of bouncing back on Sunday.
“This was my first match on clay in a long time. He’s an excellent player and he never gave me a chance to get into the match,” said Sela. “All in all, 1-1 is a good score for us and we’ll see who handles the pressure better on Sunday.”
In the World Group, Andy Murray steered Britain to within sight of its first Davis Cup semifinal in more than three decades on Saturday after dragging his team into a 2-1 quarterfinal lead over Italy.
The Wimbledon champion returned early on Saturday to the claycourt overlooking the Gulf of Naples to complete a straight-sets victory over Andreas Seppi to level the tie, then teamed up with fellow Scot Colin Fleming to beat Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli in an entertaining clash.
Murray and Fleming were cruising after winning the opening two sets 6-3, 6-2 but the Italian duo found some form to take the third 6-3 and looked like taking it to a decider before the British pair rallied to win the fourth set 7-5.
It means Murray has the chance to send Britain into the semis for the first time since 1981 if he beats Fognini on Sunday in the first of the two reverse singles.
Switzerland or Kazakhstan await in the last four.
Kazakhstan took a surprise 2-1 lead on Saturday, with Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov beating Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (6).
World number 13 Fognini, who beat James Ward on a rain-hit Friday to give Italy the lead, is a formidable opponent on clay, having won all three of his ATP singles titles on the surface in the space of the last nine months.
“It should be a tough match, Fabio’s played very well this year, especially on the clay so it’ll be a big challenge for me but I hope I can play a good match and win the tie,” Murray told Italian TV channel Super Tennis.
Murray has not been in the best of form since returning from back surgery but the world number eight proved too resilient for Seppi in a match that had been suspended due to bad light on Friday with the Wimbledon champion already leading by a set.
After surviving four set points on Friday evening, Murray returned to court leading 6-4, 5-5 and proved rock solid to complete a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory.
The doubles rubber always looked like being a significant factor in the outcome of the tie, adding to the tension as Italy fought back from a dreadful start and then forged 5-3 ahead in the fourth set with some inspired tennis which ignited the fans.
The Brits edged it though, to put themselves in pole position.
“We’ll find out at the end of the tie if this is a crucial point but it’s given us great momentum going into Sunday 2-1 up, it’s exactly what we wanted when we woke up this morning so we couldn’t be happier right now,” said Fleming.
The Italians will have to win both singles matches on Sunday if they are to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1998 Elsewhere, the Czech Republic wasted little time wrapping up its Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Japan after the defending champions eased to a straight sets victory in the doubles rubber on Saturday to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in Tokyo.
After battling to singles wins on Friday, Radek Stepanek and Lukas Rosol paired up for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tatsuma Ito and Yasutaka Uchiyama at the Ariake Coliseum to set up a last four encounter against either Germany or France.
Germany leads France 2-1.
On Friday, former world number eight Stepanek, now 47th, came from a set down to beat Ito 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-5 before Rosol survived a midmatch meltdown to overcome 21-yearold Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 in the second rubber.
Reuters contributed to this report