Dudi Sela 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Any realistic hope Israel's Davis Cup team has of defeating Russia in this weekend's quarterfinal tie at the Nokia Arena will rest on the narrow shoulders of Dudi Sela.
Harel Levy will be playing just as many matches as Sela over the weekend, and Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich will also have a crucial role to play in the outcome of the tie.
However, if Sela fails to win his singles matches on Friday and Sunday, Israel has little chance of surprising the Russians and advancing to the semifinals of the prestigious competition for the first time ever.
Since 2007, Israel has won five of its six ties and in four of the five victories, Sela won both of his singles matches. In the win over Italy Sela lost a match, but it was a meaningless dead rubber.
His only defeat in a significant singles match in the Davis Cup in the past three years came against Thomas Johansson of Sweden last February in a tie the team eventually lost 3-2.
The simple conclusion from all of the above is that it will take nothing short of a miracle for the national team to defeat Russia should Sela lose one of his matches.
There is, however, a positive side to all of this, as Sela is entering the tie playing the best tennis of his life.
The 24-year-old climbed to a career-best number 33 in the world earlier this week after reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon, his best achievement ever in a Grand Slam tournament.
On Friday, Sela faces Mikhail Youzhny (69), who was nominated to play by captain Shamil Tarpischev despite being the lowest ranked player in the Russian squad.
"Youzhny's an excellent player. Just last year he was ranked as high as No. 8 in the world, so it's going to be a very tough match," Sela said on Thursday.
Youzhny is also a very experienced Davis Cup player, clinching the title for Russia some seven years ago by winning the decisive match in the final against France.
Russia has been one of the most successful side's in the competition in recent years, winning the title in 2006 and reaching at least the semifinals in the past four years.
Israel, on the other hand, has only ever reached the quarterfinals once before, losing 4-0 to India in 1987.
In the opening match of the tie on Friday, Harel Levy (210) will try to stun Russia's number 1, Igor Andreev (24).
Andreev reached the fourth round of Wimbledon last week and will be a firm favorite against Levy.
"I'll try to play well and win and give the team the first point," Andreev said.
Former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin (60) is currently not slated to play a singles match, but should the tie come down to a decisive fifth rubber on Sunday he could well replace Youzhny in the encounter against Levy.
In the first match on Sunday Sela is set to play Andreev.
On Saturday, Safin and Igor Kunitsyn (35) will face Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich in the doubles match.
"I think this is the best combination right now," Safin said of his captain's nominations. "Andreev and Youzhny have been playing well in the last couple of months and I feel that I'm not in the best shape right now."
The Israeli doubles duo has barely played together since Erlich returned from an eight month injury layoff a couple of months ago, but Ram is in a confident mood and is raring to go.
"There is a very good energy in the team and we are ready," Ram said. "We are all in good shape and any one of us can bring one of the three points needed for victory."
Israel captain Eyal Ran is just as optimistic. "We are feeling very good. Training went well and all of the players are in good form," Ran said. "Everyone is waiting for the tie to begin and to finally do their talking on court."