Israel within win of surprise return to World Group

Ram and Erlich defeated Horacio Zeballos and Federico Delbonis after three hours and 27 minutes in Sunrise, Florida.

September 14, 2014 03:15
2 minute read.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich

Andy Ram (right) and Yoni Erlich (left) recorded a thrilling five-set victory over Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos and Federico Delbonis in their final match together last night in Sunrise, Florida, giving Israel a 2-1 lead over Argentina in the World Group playoff tie.. (photo credit: GADI/ITA)

In what was likely their final match together, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich moved Israel to within one win of a return the Davis Cup World Group on Saturday, claiming a dramatic five-set victory to open a 2-1 lead in the playoff tie against Argentina.

Ram and Erlich defeated Horacio Zeballos and Federico Delbonis 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 after three hours and 27 minutes in Sunrise, Florida, with Ram suffering from cramp in the fifth set in what was his first competitive match in over five months.

Ram announced back in April that he will retire following the tie against Argentina and he collapsed to the court and wept uncontrollably after clinching yet another remarkable victory with Erlich, their 16th win from their last 18 matches in the competition since September 2005.

“If I try to describe what I’m feeling I will cry,” said Erlich, with the weeping Ram standing beside him. “I just wanted the final game to end. Andy could hardly stand on his feet at the end and I told him just to get his serve in and I will do the rest. We were very lucky today. It was really a miracle.”

Dudi Sela, ranked No. 84 in the world, can clinch Israel’s progress to the World Group with a victory over Leonardo Mayer (25) in the first match of the day on Sunday.

Should Sela lose, Bar Botzer (776) will face Carlos Berlocq (67) in a fifth and decisive rubber.

Botzer showed plenty of promise in his first-ever Davis Cup match on Friday before losing 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 to Mayer.

“I was nervous in the first game and that may have ended up deciding the set, but I started playing better after that,” said Botzer. “This is the first time that I’m playing a player of this level and this match gave me a lot of confidence. I was surprised that I managed to stay in the match and I believe I can reach this level in the future.”

After previously winning just one of eight Davis Cup matches since September 2012, Sela ensured the first day ended all-square with a superb 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 victory over Berlocq.

“I’m happy I ensured the tie will only be decided in the third and final day,” said Sela. “I will give 100 percent.

Leonardo is an excellent player and it won’t be easy, but anything can happen in the Davis Cup.”

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