ISRAEL’S AND BELGIUM’S squads tennnis 370.
(photo credit: IBA/courtesy)
Israel enters its David Cup tie in Belgium on Thursday confident of its chances
of making a swift return to the World Group.
The national team advanced
to the World Group last year with a 3-2 win over Japan in Tokyo, but found
itself back in the playoffs after suffering its first Davis Cup whitewash since
2004 in February, losing 5-0 at France.
Israel was fortunate to avoid
Spain, Switzerland and Germany in the playoff draw and its hopes were handed
another significant boost this week, despite the fact the tie will be played on
an indoor clay court in Antwerp.
The Belgium No. 1, David Goffin, ranked
No. 72 in the world, broke his left wrist in training on Monday and will be out
for the rest of the season.
As a result, Belgium’s squad doesn’t include
a single top-100 player, with Ruben Bemelmans (155) and Steve Darcis (165) set
to lead the hosts in the singles matches.
Dudi Sela (85) was drawn on
Wednesday to face Darcis in Thursday’s opener, with Amir Weintraub (184) to play
Bemelmans in the second match of the day.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich are
set to come up against Darcis and Olivier Rochus in Friday’s doubles match, with
the tie to end with Sunday’s reverse singles.
The encounter is starting a
day earlier than scheduled due to Yom Kippur, with no matches to be played on
“I’m glad that Dudi is playing in the first match, but what is
really important is that we are ready and make the most of every chance we get,”
said Israel captain Eyal Ran.
“The most important thing is that we
believe in ourselves and draw on the experience of recent years.”
will be playing in the World Group playoffs for a fourth straight year, hoping
to claim a second straight road win after last year’s victory over Japan
following two playoff defeats at home against Austria and
Israel’s players will not be looking forward to the prospect of
playing on the clay they so detest, with the blue-andwhite losing both the ties
it has contested on the red surface since 2002.
However, those two
defeats came against the powerful Chile and Spain and Ran has no concerns
regarding the conditions in Belgium.
“The court isn’t that slow, but we
will need to be patient,” said Ran. “I trust my players who always know how to
excel in the Davis Cup.”
Sela’s opponent in Thursday’s opener, Darcis,
made headlines across the world when he stunned Rafael Nadal in the first round
of Wimbledon earlier this summer.
However, he was forced to pull out of
the tournament before his second round match due to a shoulder injury he
suffered in the victory over the Spaniard and has played just three tournaments
since, losing to German Richard Becker (463) in the first round of a Challenger
event in the Netherlands last week.
“I don’t know what to expect from
Darcis,” admitted Sela on Wednesday.
“I always want to play in the second
match on the first day, but that never seems to happen. You are under a lot of
pressure when you play first, but I hope I will cope with it.”
won just four of his 14 Davis Cup singles matches over the past four years,
losing both his contests against France and Japan.
Weintraub stepped up
to lead Israel to the win in Japan with two singles victories, including in the
Prior to the thrashing in France, Weintraub won at least
one match in his first four ties for the national team and Israel will be
counting on him to pick up a point in Belgium.
“I know the Belgian
players well,” said Weintraub. “I spend a lot of time with them on tour and
every match in this tie is going to be very difficult for us.”