Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela.
(photo credit: ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Israel’s Davis Cup team will likely need Dudi Sela to achieve something he hasn’t done in six years to have any chance of beating Romania on the road this weekend and advancing to the second round of Europe/Africa Zone Group I.
Since the 3-2 win over Sweden in the first round of the World Group in March 2009, Israel’s No. 1 hasn’t won both his singles rubbers in a Davis Cup tie.
The blue-and-white nevertheless historically managed to reach the semis that year before returning to the World Group in 2013. However, with the changing of the guard set to continue in the national team this weekend, Israel has become more dependent than ever on Sela.
Edan Leshem, who will celebrate his 18th birthday in two weeks, was called up to the squad for the first time, filling the space vacated with Andy Ram’s retirement after last September’s 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 just 1,222 in the world.
He will act as a backup in Romania, with captain Eyal Ran nominating Sela (108) and 21-year-old Bar Botzer (893) for the singles matches, just as he did against Argentina.
Sela is set to also take Ram’s place alongside Yoni Erlich, who is recovering from pneumonia, in the doubles match, although Ran named Leshem as the veteran’s partner in Thursday’s draw.
Amir Weintraub is still recovering from the thigh injury that has sidelined him since last June.
Botzer will play Adrian Ungur (159) in the first match on Friday before Sela comes up against Marius Copil (168).
The Romanians will be favored in Saturday’s doubles, having two world class players in Horia Tecau (9) and Florin Mergea (17).
The tie was initially scheduled to take place on clay, but was moved to an indoor hard court in the city of Sibiu, much to the relief of Sela, who despises the red surface.
“I’m always the favorite no matter who I play,” said Sela on Thursday. “I’m always counted on to win.”