Israel visits South Africa for Davis Cup tie

South Africa’s Sports and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi announced last week that he will boycott the tie.

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February 2, 2018 01:16
2 minute read.
Dudi Sela playing Ukraine in Europa/Africa Group I Davis Cup action at Ramat Hasharon.

Dudi Sela playing Ukraine in Europa/Africa Group I Davis Cup action at Ramat Hasharon.. (photo credit: YONI ARIELI)

 
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Israel is confident of claiming its first road victory in Davis Cup action in almost four years when it visits South Africa at the Irene Country Club in Centurion this weekend in Europe/Africa Group I action.

The blue-and-white hasn’t won away from home since triumphing 3-1 in Slovenia in the second round of Group I in April 2014. That was also the last time Israel made it past the first round of Group I, losing on the road in the opening round to Romania, Hungary and Portugal over the last three years.

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The national team only secured its survival in Group I thanks to a victory over Romania last October, triumphing 5-0 at Ramat Hasharon.

Israel, which was in danger of being relegated to Group II for the first time since 2001, was guided in that tie for the first time by captain Harel Levy, who replaced Eyal Ran after he left following the 5-0 loss to Ukraine the previous month.

Under the Davis Cup’s new format, all Group I and II ties this year will be held over two days instead of three, with matches to be the best-of-three sets rather than the best-of-five.

The opening day will include two singles matches as before, with the second day to begin with the doubles match that will be followed after a short break by the two reverse singles.

The two-day, best-of-three-sets trial does not apply to the World Group, which will continue to play ties over three days and best-of-five sets in 2018.



Israel No. 2 Edan Leshem, ranked No. 254 in the world, faces South Africa’s top player, Lloyd Harris (289) in the opening match on Friday. Dudi Sela (97) plays Nicolaas Scholtz (325) in the second encounter.

Levy nominated Yoni Erlich and Daniel Cukierman for Saturday’s doubles, with South Africa captain Marcos Ondruska naming Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse.

South Africa, which was promoted from Group II last year, will once more be without world No. 11 Kevin Anderson, who hasn’t played for the team since 2011.

While Levy paired Erlich with Cukierman in Thursday’s draw, Sela could still well ultimately be the one to team-up with the former. Erlich and Sela have played together in the doubles in each of Israel’s past five ties.

“The new format of best-of-three sets is better for me, but after the doubles I will only have a break of around 30 minutes so that will be tough,” said Sela, who was drawn to play in the first of Saturday’s singles matches.

South Africa’s Sports and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi announced last week that he will boycott the tie, writing in an open letter that “given the concerns that activists and fellow South Africans are raising regarding the presence of an Israeli team I believe that it would not be proper for me to attend.”

Nxesi was responding to a letter sent to him by anti-Israel groups that include BDS South Africa and SA Jews for a Free Palestine.

“I myself have experienced Israeli discrimination and occupation when I was denied entry to Palestine in 2012,” he wrote.

BDS South Africa, together with several anti-Israel organizations, are planning a picket outside the match venue on Friday.

“We aren’t concerned about the protests. We are used to having increased security,” said Levy. “I’m looking forward to the support of the Jews and Israelis in the stands.”

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