Tennis: Portugal beats Israel with day to spare in Davis Cup Group I

Israel was hoping to claim the first of the three wins it needed in 2017 to return to the World Group for the first time since 2013; But it will instead need to fight for its life.

February 5, 2017 04:28
3 minute read.
Israel tennis

Israel’s Dudi Sela (left) and Yoni Erlich. (photo credit: ALEX GOLDENSTEIN/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)

Israel’s dream of returning to the Davis Cup World Group will have to wait at least one more year after the blue-andwhite dropped to an unassailable 3-0 deficit against Portugal in Group I action in Lisbon on Saturday.

After 17-year-old Yshai Oliel could only manage to win four games on his debut and Dudi Sela dropped to a disappointing defeat in Friday’s singles rubbers, Yoni Erlich and Sela suffered a five-set loss in the doubles on Saturday, rendering Sunday’s singles matches as meaningless.

Erlich and Sela battled Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias for four hours and 10 minutes before falling to a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 defeat on the indoor clay court.

Israel was hoping to claim the first of the three wins it needed in 2017 to return to the World Group for the first time since 2013. But it will instead need to fight for its life in Group I for a third straight year, with the blue-and-white not playing in Group II since 2001.

Israel has won only one of its past six away ties since the start of 2013.

After playing in the Junior Boys’ final at the Australian Open last weekend, Oliel made his Davis Cup debut for Israel on Friday. But he was out of his depth against Portugal’s No.

1 Sousa, ranked No. 41 in the world, losing 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 after one hour and 28 minutes.

Sela (75) got off to a quick start in the second match of the day, but was limited by a hand injury for much of it, ultimately falling to a 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 loss to Elias (76).

“Dudi was affected by his hand injury, but it was important for him to play,” said Israel captain Eyal Ran. “We threw Oliel into the deep end. He showed his potential and we will give him the time he needs to mature. I’m sure he learned a lot from this match.”

Oliel received the unexpected call up due to Amir Weintraub’s shoulder injury, and he is expected to gain more experience on Sunday. Daniel Cukierman is likely to play in the first match of the day.

Elsewhere, Serbia, Australia and France moved into the Davis Cup quarterfinals on Saturday when their doubles teams got the victories that gave them unassailable 3-0 leads over Russia, the Czech Republic and Japan, respectively.

In Tokyo, French pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut dispatched home partners Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to clinch the tie with a day to spare.

In Melbourne, home pair Sam Gorth and John Peers were even more dominant, beating Jan Satral and Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Australia will play the United States or Switzerland in the next round while France will face either Canada or Britain.

Defending champion Argentina kept its Davis Cup hopes alive with an epic win against Italy in the doubles on Saturday.

Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer had to win to keep Argentina in the competition following a poor first day which saw the Italians take a 2-0 lead.

Berlocq and Mayer got off to the perfect start and went 2-0 ahead, but the Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini fought back to take the match into a fifth deciding set.

The Argentines had numerous match points but Bolleli and Fognini proved resilient once again.

The Italians then had their own chance to knock Argentina out of the Davis Cup with a match point, but Berlocq and Mayer survived when Fognini miss-hit a forehand.

Argentina finally capitalized on its sixth match point when Mayer hit a big forehand and cross court forehand winner much to the delight of the Buenos Aires crowd.

The Argentinian victory means the tie will be decided on Sunday in the reverse singles.

Reuters contributed to this report

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