Hope for future despite Davis defeat

Hope for future despite

By JEREMY LAST
September 21, 2009 05:10
4 minute read.
Andy ram 248.88

Andy ram 248.88. (photo credit: )

Israel's Davis Cup team may have been comprehensively beaten 4-1 by Spain in its first semifinal appearance over the weekend, but captain Eyal Ran and his players will still return home with their heads held high. Ran was philosophical after Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich's doubles defeat to Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez on Saturday, which clinched an unassailable 3-0 lead for the hosts. "What can you do, only one team can win and I think the Spaniards played very well," he said. "I hope it is the start of something. We are looking forward to next year. We learned time and time again how important the Davis Cup is. We are very proud and we want to hold on to this feeling for the next few years." Harel Levy, Dudi Sela, Ram and Erlich fought for every point over the first two days in Murcia against the best side in the world. So when they ended up losing all three matches on Friday and Saturday, and with them any chance of making the final, there was no shame, only the understanding that they gave it their best shot and will have another chance next year. On Sunday, Ram lost the first dead rubber to David Ferrer 6-2, 6-1 before Levy salvaged a modicum of pride for the visitors with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Lopez. Following his 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 loss alongside Erlich in Saturday's tough doubles match, Ram spoke of his enjoyment at playing in such a high-profile tie. "It is tough to play Spain on clay with 10,000 people pushing them. There is nothing to do. We lost to the best team in the world," he said. "It was history for us and for Israel. We will keep going. For me it was a pleasure to play in the semifinal for the first time ever. During the last part of the match I was looking up to the crowd and smiling. It is up to us now. Hopefully we can be in semifinal again next year. Dreams can come true again." In each of Friday's opening singles matches and in Saturday's doubles there were brief moments of hope that an upset could be created on the demanding clay court built specially for the occasion at the Polaris World la Torre Golf Resort in Torre Pacheco. Levy, 31, opened the tie by losing the first set against Ferrer by six games to one in only 22 minutes, unable to make any real dent in the confidence of his opponent, ranked 121 places above him at 19 in the world. But the Israeli regained his composure to break his opponent's serve in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead and appear to be right back in it, only to see Ferrer break back immediately and go on to win the match 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 53 minutes. Israeli hopes were then pinned on world number 29 Dudi Sela, and the man from Kiryat Shmona got his match against Juan Carlos Ferrero off to a nail-biting start, saving seven break points on his serve in an opening game which lasted 16 minutes. Eventually Ferrero, 21 in the world, broke Sela in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and survived the Israeli's comeback attempt to win the set 6-4. Just like in Levy's match, Israeli dreams of the tie being turned around came in the fourth game of the second set. But this time Sela missed four chances to break. From then on it was all Ferrero as the 2003 French Open champion reeled off 11 straight games to take the match 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 and put the Spanish in a commanding position at the end of the first day, going into Saturday's doubles. "He played very well. I played ok for a set and a half, but then I got tired. I'm not used to playing on clay," Sela said. As expected, the doubles match was the tightest of the three. At times during the three-and-three-quarter hour epic Israel again had every right to be optimistic, most notably after Ram and Erlich saved four set points in the second set tie break before winning the breaker 9-7. The Israelis went to the net at every opportunity to provide some scintillating tennis, but in the end it just wasn't enough and the Spanish clinched a place in the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic with a four-set victory. One of the most significant moments in the tie came in the third game of the fourth set of the doubles when Erlich needed treatment on a painful shoulder as he faced a break point. He came back to ensure he and Ram saved the break, but the Israelis were broken two points later and the tie was all but lost. Erlich admitted afterwards that the best team had won. "I think they played very well almost all the match. We had our opportunities… but they still kept their level. We didn't take our chances and they got better and better," he said. "We are very happy to claim the victory on Saturday," Spanish captain Albert Costa said.


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