Ram Erlich 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel’s Davis Cup team needs one victory from Sunday’s two remaining singles
matches against Austria to maintain its World Group status for a fourth straight
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich gave Israel a 2-1 lead in the playoff tie
at the Nokia Arena on Friday with a 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jurgen Melzer
and Alexander Peya, bringing the blue-and-white within one point of clinching
the best-of-five tie and remaining among the world’s top 16 nations for another
Dudi Sela, ranked 85th in the world, faces Melzer (No.13)
in the first of Sunday’s matches, with Harel Levy (223) set to play Andreas
Haider-Maurer (180) in the fifth and decisive encounter, with Austrian captain
Gilbert Schaller also considering replacing Haider-Maurer with Martin Fischer
(134) or Peya.
“Ram and Erlich displayed excellent tennis at the right
moments,” Israel captain Eyal Ran said on Friday. “We are expecting two tough
matches on Sunday, but I believe either Dudi or Harel will get us the point we
We are leading 2-1 and we are in a good position to clinch the
Sela’s match against Melzer bears many similarities to a match in
which the Israeli earned one of the greatest victories of his career, over
Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez three years ago.
Israel returned to the World
Group after a 14 year absence following its 3-2 victory over Chile in September
2007, with Ram and Erlich giving the team a 2-1 lead just an hour prior to the
start of Yom Kippur, before Sela claimed a memorable win over the then world No.
6 Gonzalez to clinch the tie.
Like Gonzalez, Melzer, the world No. 13, is
also ranked far higher than his Israeli opponent and will be the firm favorite
entering the match after reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros and the last
16 at Wimbledon and the US Open in in recent months.
“Sela is a good
player and he will have the support of the fans,” Melzer said. “I beat him in
three easy sets at Roland Garros, but this is a completely different
Nevertheless, I still believe I’m a good enough player to beat
Ran is confident Sela can defy the odds and get the better of
Melzer to maintain Israel’s place in the World Group.
“I believe Dudi
will come up with the goods against Melzer,” Ran said. “Melzer lost in the
doubles and he could lose to Sela as well.”
Ram and Erlich got Friday’s
doubles match off to a shaky start, losing their serve in the first game of the
However, they broke back immediately, and after squandering
break points in the sixth and eighth games, dominated the tiebreaker, claiming
it 7-2 to take the first set. The Austrians raced to a 3-0 lead in the second
set and were up 4-1 after holding their serve to love.
Ram and Erlich
came right back, however, reeling off five straight games to take the set 6-4
and open a significant lead.
There was no stopping the Israeli duo after
that, with Ram and Erlich breaking in the first game of the third set and
maintaining their lead before taking the set 6-4 and wrapping up the match after
2 hours and 28 minutes.
“I’ve been suffering with a knee injury for the
past month-and-a-half and I didn’t even know if I would be able to make this
tie,” said Ram, who together with Erlich converted four of eight break points,
hitting 76 winners throughout the match.
“Luckily for me, the match was
over quickly. However, we must remember that the tie isn’t over yet and we have
to make sure to complete the job on Sunday.”
World Group playoff Israel vs Austria (winners in bold) Israel leads 2-1 heading
into Sunday’s final matches Thursday Dudi Sela (ISR) defeated Andreas
Haider-Maurer (AUT) 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 Jurgen Melzer (AUT) defeated Harel Levy (ISR)
6-4, 6-3, 6-3 Friday Yoni Erlich/Andy Ram (ISR) defeated Jurgen Melzer/Alexander
Peya (AUT) 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4 Sunday Dudi Sela (ISR) vs Jurgen Melzer (AUT) Harel
Levy (ISR) vs Andreas Haider-Maurer or captain’s pick (AUT)