Allon sinai 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An opportunity like this scarcely presents itself more than once in a generation.
Israel's Davis Cup team may well be the underdog in this weekend's quarterfinal tie against Russia at the Nokia Arena. However, if the national team fails to defeat Russia and advance for the first time in its history to the semifinals of one of world sports most prestigious competitions, it will likely rue the missed opportunity not just in the subsequent days and weeks but for many years to come.
Russia has reached the semifinals of the Davis Cup in each of the last four years, winning the competition in 2006.
But for all its experience and superior talent, it enters this weekend's tie in a vulnerable position.
With world number 11 Nikolay Davydenko not traveling to Israel, and Dmitry Tursunov (25) out injured, captain Shamil Tarpischev will have to manage with four individuals, who despite being ranked in the world's top 70, will almost all be entering the tie in far from ideal form.
Igor Andreev (24 in the world) is currently playing the best tennis in the team, reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at Roland Garros.
The relatively unknown Igor Kunitsyn (35), who has previously only made one Davis Cup appearance, is the team's second best ranked player, but he's only progressed past a second round of a ATP tournament once this year and has a very unflattering record of 7-17 in 2009.
Despite being by far the biggest name on the team, two-time Grand Slam winner and former world No. 1 Marat Safin (60) has experienced a forgettable season so far.
The 29-year-old, who will retire at the end of the year, lost in the first round of Wimbledon and has won just one match in his last five tournaments.
Mikhail Youzhny (69) was also knocked out in the first round at the All England Club and admitted on Tuesday that he has been playing poorly recently.
All of the above, combined with the fact that the tie will be played in front of some 10,000 raucous fans at the Nokia Arena, give Israel a real chance of making it through to the semis.
The national team may have only played in the quarterfinals once before, losing 4-0 to India in 1987. However, with Dudi Sela, currently ranked at a career best No. 33 in the world, playing the best tennis of his life and Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich back together again, Israel's dream of making history could well be realized.
It has taken the team 22 years to return to the quarterfinals and it could easily take just as long to get back to this stage for the third time.
Russia is deservedly the bookmakers' favorite, but with all things considered, Israel's Davis Cup team has got an opportunity it simply can not afford to miss.