Israel Davis Cup.
(photo credit: OFRA FRIEDMAN/ITA)
Israel will vie for a place in the Davis Cup World Group in September after advancing to the playoffs on Sunday, beating Slovenia 3-1 in Portoroz.
The final day of the Europe/ Africa Zone Group I tie began in a 1-1 deadlock after Saturday’s doubles encounter was postponed by a day due to rain.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who were playing together for the first time in almost three months, looked rusty at the start of their encounter with Blaz Rola and Grega Zemlja, but held their composure when it mattered most en route to a 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory in three hours and 46 minutes.
Dudi Sela was outplayed in a straight-set defeat to Rola on Friday, his seventh loss in a row in the Davis Cup.
However, he made the most of Zemlja’s exhaustion on Sunday, with the Slovenian returning to the court just two hours after the doubles contest, recording a 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-2 triumph, his first win in the competition in two years.
“I played well throughout the match and my opponent had played doubles in the morning for almost four hours,” said Sela. “I felt he wasn’t moving very well starting from the third set while I was only feeling better and better.”
The playoff draw will be held on Tuesday, with Serbia, Spain and the USA set to be among Israel’s potential opponents.
“We have played on the road in the last few ties so I’m hoping we will finally play the playoffs at home,” added Sela.
“Our chances of returning to the World Group will largely depend on the draw we receive so hopefully luck will be on our side.”
In the opening rubber of the day, Ram and Erlich seemed to be in complete control after breaking in the fifth game of the second set. However, they lost their serve in the subsequent game and were broken yet again in the 10th game, with Rola hitting a forehand winner on set point.
The hosts were cruising at the start of the third set, racing to a 4-1 lead and having break points to move into a fourgame advantage. However, Ram and Erlich held tough and fought back to tie the score (4-4) before clinching the tiebreak with a Ram backhand winner which somehow caught the line.
The third set setback broke the Slovenians and the Israeli duo needed just one break in the sixth game of the third set to move Israel into the lead before Sela wrapped up the blue-and-white’s progress to the playoffs.
Also in Davis Cup action on Sunday, Italy staged a superb fightback to beat Britain 3-2 in the quarterfinals as Fabio Fognini shocked Andy Murray, and Andreas Seppi eased past James Ward in the decisive fifth match.
In other quarterfinal results, France beat Germany 3-2, the Czech Republic blanked Japan 5-0 and Roger Federer sealed Switzerland’s place in the semis by completing a 3-2 comeback win over Kazakhstan.