(photo credit: ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Israel’s hopes of returning to the Davis Cup World Group suffered a massive blow on Thursday before a ball was even hit in the playoff tie against Argentina after Amir Weintraub was ruled out with a groin injury.
Despite training with the team over the past week, Weintraub is not fully fit to play in the tie, which begins in Sunrise, Florida on Friday.
The 20-year-old Bar Botzer, ranked No. 776 in the world, will take his place and make his Davis Cup debut.
Weintraub has played just one match in more than three months due to the groin injury and underwent surgery in late July after unsuccessfully trying to overcome the pain with injections. He was optimistic he would play when speaking earlier this week, but failed to prove his fitness in Sunrise and leaves behind a big void.
Weintraub won at least one match in six of the seven ties he played for Israel since making his Davis Cup debut in March 2011, while Botzer has spent almost all of his fledgling career on the third-tier Futures circuit.
Botzer played his first ever Challenger Tour event last week, beating three players in the qualifiers in St. Remy, France to reach the main draw before losing to Yann Marti (211). Botzer’s most impressive win this year came against Filip Horansky (377) of Slovakia, but he will be facing a completely different class of opponent on Friday when he comes up against world No. 25 Leonardo Mayer.
“I’m ready to play and I’m very excited,” said Botzer. “This was one of my goals in life and this is a dream come true.”
Dudi Sela (84) will face Carlos Berlocq (67) in the second singles match on Friday, with the doubles encounter to take place on Saturday and the reverse singles to be played on Sunday.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich will team-up for the last time in the doubles and will play Horacio Zeballos and Federico Delbonis.
Ram announced back in April that he will retire following the tie against Argentina.
Assuming Botzer fails to claim a highly unlikely win in either of his singles matches, Israel’s only chance of progressing will depend on Sela triumphing in both of his singles rubbers and Ram and Erlich capping their sensational Davis Cup career together with a 16th victory from their past 18 matches in the competition.
On Sunday, Sela is set to face Mayer in the first match of the day, with Botzer to play Berlocq in the fifth and final rubber.