ANDY RAM (left) and Yoni Erlich 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel will be looking to return to the Davis Cup World Group after a three-year
absence in September after advancing to the playoffs on Saturday by opening an
unassailable 3-0 lead over Portugal in the second round of Europe/Africa Zone
Group I at Ramat Hasharon.
Wins in Friday’s singles matches by Dudi Sela
and Amir Weintraub gave Israel a promising 2-0 lead and Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich
secured the blue-and-white’s progress to the World Group playoffs with their
ninth win in their past 10 home matches on Saturday, defeating Joao Sousa and
Gastao Elias 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
“Had you told me before the tie that we would
wrap up the win to the loss of a single set I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m
not taking that for granted,” said Israel captain Eyal Ran.
“We are once
more one win away from the World Group and if we get a home draw we will have a
Ram and Erlich struggled to establish their superiority for much
of the first set, but a break of serve in the seventh game was all they would
need to take the opener.
The second set was also decided by a single
break, this time in the third game, and the Israeli duo clinched the win in
front of surprise spectator Gilad Schalit by taking the final three games of the
The World Group playoffs will take place over the weekend of
September 14-16, with Israel to discover its next opponent on
On Friday, Sela, ranked No. 62 in the world, outplayed
Frederico Gil (84) on the way to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win before Weintraub (199)
defeated an ailing Rui Machado (101) 5-7, 6-3, 6- 1, 7-5.
Sela raced into
a 3-0 lead in the opening singles rubber, and after saving break points in the
seventh game, served out the set two games later.
The Israeli No. 1 broke
Gil at the first time of asking in the second set as well and held his serve to
take a 2- 0 advantage.
He remained in control for the remainder of the
set and clinched it with a volley winner after an excellent rally.
had to stave off a break point in the fourth game of the third set to tie the
score at 2-2 and broke Gil immediately with a backhand winner before eventually
holding his serve to love to give Israel a 1-0 lead in the tie.
very hard to play on this court and I also had a little luck in the second set,”
Sela said. “The result makes the match looks easier than it was.
been feeling good all year, but with the crowd at Ramat Hasharon I always feel
Weintraub struggled to find his rhythm in the first set and
Machado clinched the opener with a forehand winner.
Israel’s No. 2
settled in the second set, and although he never really hit top form, he made
the most of Machado’s poor play and served out the set in the ninth game after
breaking three games earlier.
Weintraub wasted little time in the third
set, breaking three times and racing to a 6-1 win, and outlasted Machado in a
tight fourth to give Israel a lead Ram and Erlich converted to a win on