Israeli tennis star Bar Botzer.
(photo credit: ITA/COURTESY)
The changing of the guard on Israel’s Davis Cup team is set to continue next weekend when the blue-and-white visits Romania in the first round of Europe/ Africa Zone Group I.
Edan Leshem, who will celebrate his 18th birthday in three weeks, was called up to the squad for the first time, filling the space vacated following Andy Ram’s retirement after last September’s 3-2 defeat to Argentina in the World Group playoffs.
Leshem impressed on his way to the final of the national championships in Ra’anana last December, but is still ranked No. 1,224 in the world.
He is scheduled to act as a backup in Romania, with captain Eyal Ran revealing on Thursday that Dudi Sela (100) and 21-year-old Bar Botzer (893) will be his nominations for the singles matches, just as they were against Argentina.
Sela is set to also take Ram’s place alongside veteran Yoni Erlich in the doubles match.
Israel’s 15-year-old tennis prodigy Yshai Oliel, who became just the ninth boy to capture both the 12s and 14s titles at the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl International in Florida last December, will join the team in training in Romania, but was not registered for the tie.
Amir Weintraub is still recovering from the thigh injury that has sidelined him since last June.
Romania is led by singles players Adrian Ungur (149) and Marius Copil (165) and doubles experts Horia Tecau (10) and Florin Mergea (17).
The tie was initially scheduled to take place on the slower surface of clay, but was ultimately moved to an indoor hard court in the city of Sibui, much to the relief of the Israelis.
“They have a very balanced team,” said Ran. “I think they are entering the tie in good form, but as always we try to focus on our own play and I feel that we are moving in the right direction. We have had a very good week of training.
“We are embarking on a new path,” he added. “Dudi and Yoni will continue to carry us and Bar and Edan will continue to gain experience. We are facing many challenges in the upcoming year.”