(photo credit: ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Israel’s Davis Cup team secured its Group I status for another year on Saturday, taking an unassailable 3-0 lead over Sweden at Ramat Hasharon with one day to spare.
Yoni Erlich and Dudi Sela clinched the win in the Group I second round playoff tie with a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1 victory over Isak Arvidsson and Johan Brunstrom in the doubles match. Amir Weintraub and Dudi Sela gave the blue-and-white a 2-0 lead after the first day of action on Friday, with both winning in straight sets.
Edan Leshem and 16-yearold Yshai Oliel are set to play in Sunday’s meaningless rubbers.
Israel, which avoided dropping to Group II for the first time since 2001, will visit Portugal in the first round of Group I next February.
Israel has won the last three ties it has hosted in the country, not losing at home since falling to Canada in the World Group playoffs in September 2011. It hasn’t been as successful on the road, winning only one of its past five away ties since the start of 2013.
The winner will then play Ukraine for a place in the World Group playoffs.
“It is amazing to defeat Sweden 3-0,” said Israel captain Eyal Ran.
“We were under pressure in both days and I’m really proud of Yoni and Dudi for completing the job.”
Ran, who has guided the team since 2005, said he has yet to decide if he will continue for another year.
“It is a lot easier to stay than it is to say goodbye because this is something I love and enjoy doing,” he explained. “The year has ended and I’ll take two-three weeks to think. The next tie isn’t far away so I need to make a decision. I need a bit of time to think and to make the right decision for everyone.”
Israel got the tie off to a flying start thanks to Weintraub.
Despite being ranked 66 places below his opponent, Weintraub (222) dominated Sweden’s No. 1 Elias Ymer (158) in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 victory. Sela (71) wasn’t at his best, but still defeated Markus Eriksson (456) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
“I was nervous from the start because I haven’t played here in a long time,” said Weintraub. “When you are playing for your country you are under a lot of pressure. I was really uptight during the preparations and I’m happy everything fell into place and I was focused.
“I wish I could also do better on the circuit,” he added.
“But you need to understand that in a Davis Cup tie we are given the kind of support I don’t have during the year. That helps. I’m not complaining, that is just the reality.”