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Shahar Pe'er booked Israel's place in the Fed Cup World Group for the first time in its history on Sunday afternoon. The Israeli No. 1 defeated Yvonne Meusburger 6-3, 6-1, winning for an 11th consecutive time in the prestigious competition and giving the blue-and-white an unassailable 3-0 lead in its tie against Austria in Linz.
Israel, which will be among the world's elite eight of the competition in 2008, has now won its last 10 Fed Cup ties. Just two years ago the team was still playing in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I round robin, but a perfect record in 2006 and 2007 has helped the side to this outstanding achievement.
"We made history," captain Oded Jacob said after his team completed a 4-1 overall win. In Sunday's two dead rubbers, Julia Glushko lost 6-4, 6-3 to Melanie Klaffner (639) and Pe'er and Tzipi Obziler defeated Tamira Paszek and Klaffner 6-3, 6- 1 in the doubles match.
"I never thought it would be so easy. We're already looking forward to playing in the World Group and we can't wait," Jacob added.
"We have never made it this far and obviously to be in the World Group, in the top eight teams, is something very special for such a small nation. It's very exciting. We've never been there and don't know what it means, but we're motivated and inspired and really like to play for our country."
The Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova and Amelie Mauresmo, are just four of the world's elite which may play at Ramat Hasharon should Israel receive a home tie in the draw. Israel will be joined by the United States, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and China at the summit of world tennis.
"It feels amazing to be in the World Group," Pe'er said. "What makes us so successful is that we play as a team and not just as individuals.
"I don't think I played that well," she added. "But it doesn't really matter. The most important thing is that you win. I wasn't nervous at all.
"That was my problem I think. When I got up off of the chair and played the first point today I told the captain I feel no pressure which is not good.
"The most important thing now is that we receive a home draw. We haven't played at Ramat Hasharon for so long. I don't care who we face in the next round, all the teams are good."
A Fed Cup match hasn't been played in Israel in more than a decade, with the blue-and-white defeating Lithuania 3-0 in the last tie played in the country in March of 1996.
"I've played for the national team for 15 years and this is the sweetest moment I've ever experienced," Obziler said. "The team has been together for years and we know each other very well and I think that makes the difference."
Meusburger (83), who stood-in for the sick Sybille Bammer (24), took a surprising 2-1 lead in the first set against Pe'er, breaking in the third game after the 20-year-old Israeli sent the ball wide.
Pe'er, however, broke back to love in the following game with a forehand winner and would never trail again in the match.
A Meusburger double fault in the sixth game gave Pe'er her second break of the match and soon after she wrapped up the set with a love hold in the ninth game.
Pe'er reeled off the first three games of the second set, breaking serve twice against the helpless Austrian.
Despite losing her serve in the fourth game, the Israeli claimed the last three games of the match, cruising to the victory and making history.
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