Israel's Fed Cup team can clinch a spot in the semifinals of the Europe/Africa Zone Group I tournament in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, with a victory against Belarus on Friday.
The blue-and-white squad is undefeated (3-0) after four days thanks to the solid play of top racquet Shahar Pe'er, but everything could be erased with a loss to Belarus (2-1). Romania (2-1), which beat Belarus, faces Sweden (0-3) on Friday.
If Belarus and Romania both win, it would create a three-way tie and the semifinal spot would be decided by the ratio of matches won to matches lost. Thus, if Israel loses to Belarus two matches to one and Romania beats Sweden by the same score, Pe'er and co. would still win the group.
The group winner will face either Slovakia, Serbia-Montenegro or Great Britain on Saturday in the semifinal round for a spot in the World Group II Playoffs in July.
Israel and Belarus also met last year at the tournament, with Israel suffering a 2-1 defeat that eliminated it from the competition. Pe'er went down 6-0, 7-5 to Viktoria Azarenka in the opener, Anna Smashnova bounced back for a 6-0, 6-1 win over Anastasia Yakimova in the second rubber, but Azarenka and Tatiana Poutchek outlasted Tzipi Obziler and Smashnova in the deciding doubles rubber 7-5, 6-2.
This time, Smashnova (39) is scheduled to open against Azarenka (123), followed by Pe'er (35) against Yakimova (86). The doubles will likely pit Obziler and Pe'er against Yakimova and Poutchek.
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