Israel heads into Sunday down 2-1

Canada in control after Ram, Erlich can’t get job done in doubles.

By
September 18, 2011 01:54
4 minute read.
Yoni Erlich, Andy Ram

Yoni Erlich, Andy Ram_311. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Israel has its back against the wall entering the third and final day of its Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against Canada at Ramat Hasharon after Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich suffered a 4- 6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil on Saturday.

Ram and Erlich’s first home loss in the competition in over six years saw the Canadians take a 2-1 lead in the best-offive tie after Dudi Sela surprisingly dropped the opening rubber on Friday before Amir Weintraub claimed an outstanding win.

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Only two victories in Sunday’s two singles matches will see Israel reclaim a place among the world’s top-16 nations after a one-year absence.

Sela, ranked number 96 in the world, will face Raonic (31) in the first match on Sunday, with a win for the Israel No. 1 to force a fifth and decisive rubber between Weintraub (182) and Pospisil (124).

The captains of both teams can substitute their players up to an hour prior to the start of the match, something Canada’s Martin Laurendeau may well consider doing with Pospisil should the tie go the distance, as the 21-year-old has played more than eight hours of tennis in the first two days.

Sela was far from his best in the 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3 defeat to Pospisil on Friday and he had no excuse for his poor performance after failing to clinch a win despite claiming an early break of serve in the fifth set.

“It was a tough match and I didn’t play well,” said Sela, who fought for four hours and 56 minutes. “I haven’t been playing well for over a month now. I have no confidence in the important points. He was better than me today. I hope I can improve on Sunday.”

In just the second Davis Cup match of his career, Weintraub came to the national team’s rescue, stunning Raonic 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in two hours and 55 minutes.

The Canadian was playing his first match since injuring his hip at Wimbledon in June and Weintraub took full advantage of Raonic’s obvious rust and claimed the biggest win of his career on his 25th birthday.

“I had an excellent week of training and I hoped it would show on court,” Weintraub said. “I knew from the first set that I could win this match. I wasn’t surprised by my ability, but this was certainly my best match ever and my greatest win.”

Raonic was impressed by Weintraub’s play.

“I think the biggest surprise was the inconsistency,” said the 20-year-old about his performance. “Normally the big thing for me is to be consistent throughout the whole match. Mentally I was just so-so and he really stayed on top of me. I had a few chances but he did a very good job of taking advantage of his opportunities.”

But despite Weintraub’s excellent performance, Israel finds itself in serious trouble ahead of Sunday following Ram and Erlich’s surprising loss, their first after eight consecutive home wins in the competition.

Erlich struggled with his serve in the fourth set, with Canada breaking on a double fault – the Israeli’s fifth of the set – for a 4-3 lead.

“He double faulted enough times to give us the game, that was the difference of the match right there,” said Nestor, the fifth-ranked doubles player in the world. “That was on the only game that was given away. Both of us were struggling in that game but luckily he was struggling more.”

Despite Saturday’s setback, Israel captain Eyal Ran remains optimistic of a blue-and-white comeback on Sunday.

“Dudi knows tennis better than all of us and he knows what he needs to do,” Ran said. “He knows he can beat Raonic and set up the stage for Amir. I’m proud of Andy and Yoni. Despite the disappointment they gave their all. We have a long day to come on Sunday and we can overturn the result.”

In the Davis Cup semifinals, Serbia kept alive its hopes of retaining the title when Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki beat Juan Monaco and Juan Ignacio Chela 7- 6, 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday to leave Argentina 2-1 up going into the final day.

The hosts will now be hoping world number one Novak Djokovic, who did not play in Friday’s singles, can inspire a remarkable semifinal turnaround in the noisy Belgrade Arena which staged Serbia’s final triumph against France last year.

Rafael Nadal’s Spain leads the second semi 2-1 over France after losing Saturday’s doubles, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra thumping Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-2, 6-0.


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