Dudi Sela took care of business in the fourth rubber and Noam Okun followed suit in the fifth as Israel defeated Zimbabwe 4-1 at the City Sports Center in Harare to retain its spot in Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone I for another year.
Sela, who lost his Davis Cup debut to Wayne Black in the tie's first rubber on Friday, handled Genius Chidzikwe without a problem on the way to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win. In a match for protocol only, Okun beat 19-year-old Stefan D'Almeida 6-0, 6-2 to finish the tie.
Israel will play in Zone I for the fifth straight year in 2006. Among the opponents the blue-and-white could face are Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia-Montenegro and Ukraine.
The tie was the first for non-playing captain Eyal Ran, who took over for Dedi Ya'acov in August. Afterwards he was clearly excited by his players' performance. "This was a win great win by a strong and special team. We remained in Zone I and that's where we belong."
Ran was particularly pleased by Sela's play. "Dudi's first real test went as well as possible although he lost on Friday when Black put on a tremendous show, but Dudi fought like a lion and gave everyone spirit.
"Noam supplied the results as usual and Andy and Yoni played excellent in doubles. It's a great feeling to captain this team that brings so much honor to Israel."
A break in each of the first two sets was enough to see Sela take control against Chidzikwe. Sela went ahead in the fifth game of the first set and broke Chidzikwe on his first try in the second.
The third set was less smooth, with the first five games resulting in service breaks, but Sela rebounded to take the set, match and tie.
"I'm happy to have won my first Davis Cup match," Sela said. "I was nervous at the start but I knew that everything depended on me because my opponent was not better than me. Slowly I got better and the score could have been better.
"The night before I played Black I couldn't sleep. Now that I've won I feel on top of the world."
The players are expected to return to Israel on Monday evening.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who defeated Zimbabwe's Black and Gwinyai Tongoona in the doubles rubber on Saturday, will travel to Bangkok to play in the Thailand Open this week. The Israelis, who won the title there in 2003, are the second seeds and will open against Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Luis Horna of Peru.
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