Israel’s hopes of climbing out of Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I suffered a devastating blow in Eilat on Thursday, with the national team losing 2-1 to Romania in its second Pool C tie.

Julia Glushko, ranked No. 181 in the world, gave Israel an ideal start with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Cristina Dinu (244), but the tie would be decided in a doubles encounter after Shahar Pe’er (91) dropped to a 6-2, 7-6 (3) defeat to Sorana Cirstea (27), squandering a 4-0 lead in the second set.

Pe’er and Glushko also teamed-up in the doubles, but they crashed to an emphatic 6- 2, 6-1 loss to Cirstea and Raluca Olaru in the decisive encounter.

On Friday, Israel faces Poland’s Radwanska sisters, world No. 5 Agnieszka and Urszula (37), and will need to record a stunning upset as well as hope for an unlikely Romanian defeat at the hands of the weak Turkey to have any real chance of winning Pool C.

Only the pool winner will progress to a tie on Saturday against the first-place finisher in Pool A for a berth in April’s World Group II playoffs.

Elsewhere, Rafa Nadal overcame a slow start to beat Argentine Federico Delbonis 6- 3, 6-2 and advance to the third round of the Chilean Open with his first singles victory in seven months on Wednesday.

Nadal lost his serve in the first game but quickly hit back, taking command of the match and winning the first set in 50 minutes at the Pacific resort city of Vina del Mar.

The French Open champion seemed surprised when Delbonis took a 2-0 lead, but with some fierce shots he put things in their place.

The former world number one began to vary his game and showed greater mobility in a one-sided second set which he wrapped up in 38 minutes.

“I feel happy to be playing singles again. It’s been an important day for me,” Nadal told local television after the match. “I’m happy the knee responded well.”

The 26-year-old Nadal, whose plan to return at the end of 2012 was delayed due to illness, will continue playing on his favorite clay surface at two other Latin American events this month, the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo next week and the Mexico Open in Acapulco from February 25.

Reuters contributed to this report

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger