Israel’s Davis Cup team looks to close in on a return to the World Group when it visits Slovenia in the second round of Europe/Africa Zone Group I this weekend.
The blue-and-white took part in the World Group for the first time in three years in 2013, but a 5-0 whitewash against France in the first round followed by a 3-2 defeat to Belgium in the playoffs last September left the national team facing a crucial showdown against Slovenia.
A win on the clay in Portoroz will see Israel progress to September’s World Group playoffs. However, a defeat will mean the side will have to face Portugal in a battle against relegation from Group I, a low the blue-and-white hasn’t experienced since 2006.
Israel’s roster will yet again include Dudi Sela, ranked No. 69 in the world, Amir Weintraub (198) and doubles duo, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich.
Blaz Rola (118) and Blaz Kavcic (121) are Slovenia’s top two singles players, Weintraub will face Kavcic in the first singles match on Friday before Sela plays Rola.
Ram and Erlich are set to come up against Rola and Grega Zemlja in the doubles on Saturday, with the reverse singles to be played on Sunday.
“We are facing a very tough and slightly different road tie,” said Israel captain Eyal Ran.
“We learned a lot from the tie against Belgium. Our players can play on clay and I think that if we make the most of our opportunities and give our best we will succeed.”
Sela has been in reasonable form this year, reaching two ATP Tour quarterfinals after failing to do so once in 2013. However, he hasn’t played in the past month, pulling out of the Miami Masters due to the birth of his first son two weeks ago.
Weintraub’s past two tournaments were on the Future circuit in China, with Israel’s No. 2 losing to Rola in the quarterfinals in Guangzhou in his most recent Challenger event in late February.
Ram and Erlich have only played together twice all season, losing both matches, the last of which was almost three months ago in the first round of the Australian Open.
Nevertheless, Ram guaranteed they will win the doubles rubber in Slovenia.
“There is little meaning to how long has passed since we last played together,” said a confident Ram, who has won with Erlich 14 of 16 Davis Cup matches since September 2006. “Yoni and I will claim the point. You can be sure of that.”
On TV: Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 second-round: Slovenia vs Israel (live on Sport5 at noon on Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday)