Allon sinai 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The expression on Harel Levy’s face as he sank into his courtside chair not only
told the story of the match he had just lost, but was also a testament to the
future of Israeli tennis.
Every ounce of the 32-yearold Israeli’s being
was emanating fatigue and frustration after he fell to Austria’s Martin Fischer
in the fifth and decisive rubber of the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie at the
Nokia Arena on Sunday.
However, the disheartening look in his eyes said
so much more.
It was a gaze of complete and utter dejection following a
helpless performance which resulted in Israel being relegated from the World
Group after three consecutive appearances.
Levy, currently ranked 227th
in the world, was simply not good enough to get the better of Austria’s No. 2,
globally ranked 133rd, who was making his debut in the prestigious international
After a career in which he has suffered far more than his
fair share of heartbreak, it was clear Levy was debating internally with himself
as to whether this was the end of his line.
Levy went on to say that he
will consider his options at the end of the year, but that he doesn’t plan to
retire from tennis just yet.
Regardless, Israel’s 3-2 defeat to Austria
in all likelihood marked the beginning of the end of one of the greatest teams
in local sports history.
With just one player in the top-100 and an aging
supporting cast, the blue-and-white somehow managed to survive three years among
the world’s top-16 nations, reaching the semifinals in incredible fashion last
A fortuitous draw could still mean Israel will return to the World
Group from the Europe/Africa Zone Group I within one year, but that likely will
not be the case. And with no quality youngsters coming through the ranks, the
World Group may very well be out of reach for many years to come.
Israel 14 years to return to the world’s best after the 3-2 loss to Belgium in
1994 and the subsequent retirement of Amos Mansdorf.
(30-years-old) and Erlich (33) – not to mention Levy – nearing the end of their
careers, it could take just as long this time around.
At No. 346 in the
world, 24-year-old Amir Weintraub is Israel’s highest ranked player after Levy
and fellow veteran Noam Okun (295), but he has never even broken into the ATP’s
top-300 and is far from being an adequate sidekick for Dudi
Twenty-year-old Gilad Ben- Zvi (683) is the only other player
really worth mentioning, and with no other prospects set to make an immediate
breakthrough, the future for the Davis Cup side looks to be very bleak
Producing a world-class player in a small country like Israel is
a going to be a delicate balance of luck and hard-work, and with the Israel
Tennis Association and the Israel Tennis Centers finally cooperating after years
of wrangling, there is some reason for optimism in the
However, the near-future is nothing short of
As disappointing as it was to see the team relegated from the
World Group on Sunday, the tie against Austria will look like a high-point when
even the Europe/Africa Zone Group I proves to be too strong for
All of this was painfully clear to Levy at the conclusion of his
He realized that the defeat may not only mark the end of his own
career, but could also be the final chapter in the fairytale story of this
The clock has struck midnight, and some good memories are
all that are left as Israeli tennis embarks on what are sure to be some very