Dudi Sela 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amir Weintraub recorded a gutsy comeback to beat Ruben Bemelmans 6- 3, 2-6, 6-7(2), 7-6(4), 6-4 to tie up Israel’s Davis Cup World Group playoff tie versus Belgium at 1-1 late Thursday night.
Dudi Sela dropped to his fifth straight Davis Cup defeat in the first match of the tie, being humbled 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 by Steve Darcis.
It seemed that Israel was on its way to a 0-2 deficit when Weintraub was down 2-1 in sets and by a break in the fourth set.
However, he fought back to tie up the match with a win in the fourth set tiebreak before registering a memorable victory, converting his second match point to the delight of the audible Israeli presence in the stands.
The national team had high hopes ahead of the tie, with Belgium not having a single top-100 player on its squad following the injury to David Goffin, ranked No. 72 in the world.
However, Darcis (165) proved yet again that rankings can be deceiving when it comes to the Davis Cup, easily outplaying Sela (85) in the opener.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich will look to give Israel a 2-1 lead when they face Darcis and Olivier Rochus in the doubles encounter on Friday.
Ram and Erlich have lost just two of 15 Davis Cup doubles matches in which they teamed up over the last eight years and will be confident of claiming another victory on Friday after winning back-to-back titles on the Challenger circuit before losing in the second round of the US Open.
Neither Darcis nor Rochus regularly play doubles on tour, with the former ranked just 464 in the world and the latter positioned at 312.
The tie, which began a day earlier than scheduled due to Yom Kippur, will then resume on Sunday.
Sela looked lost from the first point of the tie, dropping his first two service games to fall into a 4-0 hole after Darcis held his serve to love.
The Belgian clinched the first set with his third break and Sela failed to hold his serve yet again at the start of the second set, allowing Darcis to open a 3-0 lead.
Darcis made headlines across the world when he stunned Rafael Nadal in the first round of Wimbledon earlier this summer, and despite achieving little else since, losing to German Richard Becker (463) in the first round of a Challenger event in the Netherlands last week, he made quick work of Sela.
Another break of serve gave him a two-set lead and he raced into a 4-0 advantage in the third set before wrapping up the victory after just one hour and 51 minutes.
Sela would have gladly settled for connecting on 68 percent of his first serves before the match, but he won less than half of those points (32 of 65) and ended up holding his serve in just four of 12 games.
Israel returned to the World Group last year with a 3-2 win in Tokyo over Japan, but found itself back in the playoffs after suffering its first Davis Cup whitewash since 2004 in February, losing 5-0 at France.