Eyal Ran 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
It is hard to imagine Israel’s Davis Cup team entering this weekend’s
Europe/Africa Zone Group I tie against Poland in a worse situation than the
current sad state of affairs.
Here we are, a full two months into 2011,
and Israel’s No. 1 Dudi Sela, ranked 86th in the world, has only got two wins to
his name, failing to make it past the second round of any of the six tournaments
he has entered.
Much was expected from Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich after the
two agreed to return to play together on a weekly basis this year, but the
iconic Israeli duo has a miserable 2- 6 record in 2011, being knocked out in the
first round in four of six tournaments so far.
As discouraging as Sela’s
and Ram and Erlich’s early results have been, the trio’s performance at Ramat
Hasharon over the three days – starting Friday – is not even the biggest
question-mark entering what is a crucial tie for the national team.
Harel Levy and Noam Okun both hanging up their rackets in recent months, Amir
Weintraub (257) is Israel’s new No. 2 in singles, and with zero Davis Cup
experience to his name, no one quite knows what to expect from him against the
After reaching the semifinals of the Davis Cup in stunning fashion
in 2009, Israel has quickly regressed to its humble and true place in world
tennis and is now in danger of losing touch with the top 16 nations in the World
It took the blue-and-white 14 years to return to the World Group
after the last time it dropped to the Europe/Africa Zone Group I in
Four straight wins, the last against Chile at Ramat Hasharon in
2007, restored its place among the leading nations, a position it held for three
years until last September’s 3- 2 defeat to Austria at Nokia
Israel enters the contest against Poland on a three-tie losing
streak and another defeat will leave it in Group I for at least one more
With Ram (30) and Erlich (33) both nearing the end of their careers
and no new blue-chip talent on the horizon, time becomes an especially precious
commodity for this team.
If Israel doesn’t return to the World Group
soon, it may well once more take over a decade to get back to the big
Despite the recent struggles of his players, Israel captain Eyal
Ran is optimistic his team can overcome a mediocre Poland squad, which has an
excellent doubles duo in Marcin Matkowski (9) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg (10), but
is expected to use lowly ranked Jerzy Janowicz (150) and Marcin Gawron (362) in
the singles matches.
“It is going to be a very tight tie,” said Ran,
whose team will advance to September’s World Group playoffs with a victory over
“These teams have two of the best doubles duos in the world and
not as good singles players. We are undergoing a changing of the guard and I
hope that what makes the difference in this tie will our home-court
Ram acknowledged that his recent results with Erlich have
been bitterly disappointing, but with an eight-match home winning-streak in
Davis Cup doubles action, he believes that this weekend’s tie presents the pair
with an opportunity they have been waiting for.
“We may not be playing
too well at the moment, but the Davis Cup is a different story,” Ram said. “We
haven’t won many matches lately, but we will break out of this slump through the
Erlich echoed his partner’s sentiment.
our results this year haven’t been great,” he said. “We haven’t lived up to our
expectations, but we know what we are worth and we will continue to work hard
until we get to where we deserve.”
Sela has won eight of his last nine
meaningful Davis Cup matches at Ramat Hasharon and he is hoping that the return
to the home of Israeli tennis after two ties at Nokia will give him the boost he
“I always wanted to play at Ramat Hasharon and I’m optimistic that
the return to Canada Stadium will help us get back to winning ways,” Sela
“I have yet to win two straight matches in 2011 and I have been
slightly unlucky in recent weeks. I hope that I can gain some confidence for the
rest of the season through the Davis Cup.”
On the face of it, Israel’s
out-ofform players face an uphill battle against Poland.
the Poles struggling with injuries and the matches to be played at Ramat
Hasharon once more, the Israel camp seems to be brimming with
Hopefully they can back up their broad smiles.
if they don’t, frowns may abound for a firstname.lastname@example.org