Israel's captain in the Davis Cup tournament, Eyal Ran..
(photo credit: ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
For a second straight year, Israel’s dreams of returning to the Davis Cup World Group were already dashed with a defeat in the first round of Group I on Saturday.
Israel fell to an unassailable 3-0 deficit against Hungary in Budapest on Saturday, with Yoni Erlich and Dudi Sela losing in the doubles match after Sela and Amir Weintraub suffered two humbling defeats in the singles rubbers in the opening day of action on Friday.
Erlich and Sela lost 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 to Marton Fucsovics and Levente Godry on Saturday, clinching the tie for the hosts with a day to spare. Israel, which is in danger of dropping to Group II for the first time since 2001, will host Sweden in September in the first round playoff of Group I, with the winner to maintain its status, while the loser will play a tie against relegation.
Israel’s players never looked comfortable on the indoor claycourt surface in Budapest, getting the tie off to the worst start possible after Sela, ranked No. 89 in the world, fell to a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1 loss to Peter Nagy, ranked 523 places below him.
Israel entered Saturday down 2-0 after Amir Weintraub (197) was then beaten 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 by Fucsovics and Erlich and Sela couldn’t even send the tie into a third and decisive day.
The only target for Israel on Sunday will be to avoid a whitewash in the first round for a second straight year after being thrashed 5-0 by Romania in 2015. The blue-and-white last played in the World Group in 2013.
“We did everything we could but it wasn’t enough,” said Israel captain Eyal Ran. “We win together and we lose together. I don’t see what we could have done differently. This is a painful defeat. We didn’t think we would find ourselves down 3-0 on Saturday.”
With home-court advantage in the tie against Sweden, Ran is confident that the team will manage to bounce back against the seven-time winners, whose glory days are a distant memory.
Sweden dropped to a 3-0 deficit against Russia in the first round on Saturday, with its top ranked singles player in the tie being world No. 658 Isak Arvidsson.
“I’m glad we are playing at home as that will give us motivation over the coming months,” added Ran. “We need to rebound from this setback and I believe we will do better in our next tie.”
Sela is hoping to make up for this weekend’s disappointment.
“It isn’t fun to lose in the Davis Cup,” said Israel’s No. 1. “This is disappointing and I didn’t even think we would be trailing 2-1 after two days. We will be the favorites against Sweden, but we saw this weekend that you never know what might happen in the Davis Cup.”