Sinai Says: Sela upbeat ahead of World Group tie

Success in the Davis Cup has often proven to be a stepping stone for Sela, and he is hoping that will be the case once more following this weekend's World Group playoff tie against Canada at Ramat Hasharon.

Dudi Sela 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Dudi Sela 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dudi Sela has spent his entire career answering questions regarding his work ethic.
His god-given talent has never been in doubt, but his critics have always claimed that he could have achieved so much more, had he been willing to invest time and effort on a Shahar Pe’er level.
The 26-year-old never denied those claims, but this year he finally decided to do something about it, setting up a three-man coaching team led by freshly retired Harel Levy and fitness expert Yuval Higer, with the aim of working harder than ever before.
What a disappointment it has been then, that the extra hours on the training court and in the gym have failed to translate into results.
After winning just two of 10 matches on the main ATP Tour in the first four months of 2011 and dropping to number 147 in the world at the beginning of May – his lowest ranking since July 2007 – Sela chose to forgo the French Open and much of the European clay-court season to focus on collecting much-needed ranking points on the Challenger circuit.
Sela went on to win 15 straight matches, taking the titles in Busan, South Korea, Fergana, Uzbekistan and Nottingham, England, but top-tier success remained elusive.
Dudi has still failed to progress past the second round of any ATP Tour tournament this year, and even though his wins in the first rounds of Wimbledon and the US Open were relatively impressive, times must be tough if those are the highlights of his season thus far.
“I’m more or less pleased with my year so far,” Sela told me earlier this week. “I embarked on a new course with Harel Levy, Yuval Higer and Yoav Ben-Zvi and I have been working much harder than in the past.
“But obviously that is still not enough.”
Sela’s three straight Challenger titles catapulted him back into the world’s top-100, but he is far from pleased with his current position at No. 96.
“Considering my results, my current ranking is very fair,” he said. “I haven’t won that many matches and I’ve always lost first or second rounds in the important tournaments. But I hope that changes.
“I’ve had some good wins this year, but no winning streaks. I’m working on my game everyday, but it isn’t really showing in my matches, maybe because I enter them under a bit of pressure as I know that I should be ranked higher.
“I thought that the new coaching team would lead to quicker success, but that hasn’t happened. I’ve felt good both regarding my game and my fitness, but haven’t been able to translate that to results.
“I’ve still got six more tournaments to play this year and I hope to end 2011 on a sweet note, both in the Davis Cup and on the ATP Tour.
“I really hope that I will soon reap the fruit of my hard work.”
Success in the Davis Cup has often proven to be a stepping stone for Sela, and he is hoping that will be the case once more following this weekend’s World Group playoff tie against Canada at Ramat Hasharon.
Sela admitted he’s not entering the encounter – for a place among the world’s top 16 nations – in the best of shape, but with 11 wins in his past 14 meaningful Davis Cup matches in Israel, he is optimistic that he will be able to turn things around in time for Friday’s opening rubber.
“I’m not in very good form,” he said. “I didn’t even play that well against Thomaz Bellucci in the first round of the US Open. I managed to come back from two sets down due to my superior fitness and fighting spirit.
“In the week before the US Open I also won in the first round before playing not so well in a defeat to John Isner in the second round.
“I feel a little better at the moment and I have a few more days to prepare myself and make sure I’m ready for the upcoming matches.
"I can’t really explain why I haven’t been playing that well. I haven’t managed to put together too many consecutive wins so I haven’t played that many matches recently. I feel that you need to play plenty of matches to get into shape and that is something which I’ve been missing.”
Nevertheless, Sela believes Israel has a real chance to return to the World Group after a one-year absence, even though Canada’s rising star Milos Raonic is expected to be fit for the tie at Ramat Hasharon.
“We always have a good chance to win at home,” he said. “Of course Canada is the favorite. They have a top-30 player and another one who is on his way into the top-100, but at home we have the crowd on our side and that gives us a lot of encouragement.
We are a very united team and we all play much better than usual in Israel. I think it is going to be a very interesting tie.
“We only play in Israel once or twice a year and we want to show that we deserve to be in the World Group.”