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A place in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup will not be the only thing on the line in Coquimbo, Chile over the coming three days.
While Israel is hoping for a win to keep alive its dream of reaching the semifinals of the prestigious competition for a second straight year, Chile has got unfinished business to settle.
In September 2007, Chile came to Ramat Hasharon and fell to a surprising 3-2 loss in the World Group playoffs, with Dudi Sela recording a stunning five-set victory over a temperamental Fernando Gonzalez, who was upset with the raucous local support.
Over the next three days, the Chileans will have the perfect opportunity to avenge that defeat on their favorite clay surface.
The Israelis’ aversion to clay is no secret and there was further proof of the team’s struggles on the red surface just last week in Mexico.
Sela, Harel Levy, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich converged on Acapulco to play in the local clay court tournament to prepare for the Chile tie, but were all sent packing in quick succession.
Levy was the only Israeli who won a match, but that was in the first round of the qualifiers before he was knocked out in his subsequent encounter.
Sela fell in the first round of the main draw, with Ram and Erlich losing in the first round of the doubles event in what was their first match together since last November.
“The surface is pretty bad and quite slow,” Erlich said on Thursday after training in the stadium in Coquimbo. “However, after training on so many different surfaces over the last six days we are ready for anything.”
Chile, which has won its last three home ties, will be looking for its first victory in the World Group since 2006 when it beat Slovakia to reach the last eight.
Gonzalez will be entering the tie in top form, with the world number 10 reaching the last 16 of the Australian Open in his first tournament of the year before advancing to the semifinals in Santiago and Acapulco.
On Saturday, Gonzalez will face Levy (118), who has won just two of his seven matches in 2010.
Chila’s number 2, Nicolas Massu (92), has also had his fair share of problems this year. Massu began 2010 on the Challenger circuit and has won only two of his six matches on the main tour.
Massu plays Sela (66) on Saturday, with the Israeli entering the tie on
the back of a poor run. After reaching the semifinals in Chennai in his
first tournament of the year, Sela has won just one of his past six
encounters, losing in three of them to inferiorly ranked players.
The doubles match will be played on Sunday, with Ram and Erlich likely to come up against Gonzalez and Massu.
The tie will be completed with the reverse singles on Monday, with the
order of the matches to be determined in a draw on Friday.