Shahar Peer Australia .
(photo credit: AP)
Despite a heroic Shahar Pe'er victory, Israel's Fed Cup team will have to fight for its place in World Group II later on this year after falling 3-2 to Ukraine in Kharkov on Sunday.
In the first match of the day, Pe'er (48 in the world) came back from 4-0 down in the third and decisive set, winning six straight games to clinch a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Alona Bondarenko (31).
Tzipi Obziler (166) could have booked Israel's place in the World Group playoffs, and despite being ranked 116 places below Kateryna Bondarenko (50), was well placed after claiming the second set to tie up the match.
However, the younger Bondarenko sister edged the 35-year-old Israeli in the first games of the third set and eventually raced to a 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 victory, sending the tie to a decisive doubles match.
Beating the Bondarekno sisters, who claimed the Australian Open doubles title last year, was always going to be a tall order and Pe'er and Obziler were on their back foot right from the start and after just one hour and 13 minutes the Ukrainians clinched the tie with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
"I'm disappointed with the final result but not with the way we played," said captain Lior Mor, who was guiding the team for the first time since replacing Oded Jacob.
"Shahar and Tzipi fought until the final points, but unfortunately that wasn't enough."
After two tight sets in the first match of the day, Bondarenko stormed into a 4-0 lead in the third set and seemed to be well on her way to an easy win.
However, Pe'er's fighting qualities shone through at the decisive moment and with some sensational play she took the next six games on the trot and completed the victory on her second match point after Bondarenko sent a forehand long.
"It's one of most memorable comeback of my career," Pe'er said. "I really believed I could come back and even though I was 4-0 down I felt I was still in the match."
Obziler looked to be down and out after taking just one game in the first set and falling to a 3-0 deficit in the second set.
The veteran would take five games on the row, however, and won the second set with a great point.
Obziler had her chances at the start of the third set but, crucially, it was Bondarenko who made her opportunities count and the Ukrainian wrapped up the singles win.
The players were soon back on court for the doubles match in which the identity of the winner was never under any doubt.
The Ukrainians opened a quick 4-0 advantage and led throughout the encounter on their way to an easy win and a place in the World Group playoffs.
"I was sure I would manage to at least give the team one point," Obziler said. "I've proven in the past that I can beat superior players in the Fed Cup, but it wasn't to be."
In Fed Cup quarterfinal action on Sunday, defending champion Russia, Italy and the Czech Republic advanced to the semifinals, all completing their wins in reverse singles.
Russia, which has won four of the last five Fed Cup titles, routed China 5-0 with Anna Chakvetadze and Alisa Kleybanova both winning before the doubles team of Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova finished it off on indoor hard courts in Moscow.
Italy eliminated France 5-0, taking an unbeatable lead when Flavia Pennetta defeated a crying Alize Cornet, and the Czechs knocked out 2008 runner-up Spain 4-1.
AP contributed to this report.
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