Dudi Sela 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Dudi Sela kept alive Israel's hopes of reaching the Davis Cup World Group on Thursday, claiming a precious point with a mammoth effort in the first day of the side's playoff tie against Chile at Ramat Hasharon.
The 22-year-old, who is ranked No. 105 in the world, defeated Nicolas Massu (72) 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in a marathon match that took five hours and seven minutes to complete.
In Thursday's second match, Noam Okun (186) gave world No. 6 Fernando Gonzalez a run for his money, but eventually lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
"I played a great match," Sela said on Thursday. "I hope this is the first step on the way to making history. We want to finish this weekend in the same way it began and advance to the World Group. Our chances to progress have increased dramatically after my win."
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich face Gonzlaez and Massu in the doubles match on Friday, with the tie to be completed on Sunday with the reverse singles.
Both Sela and Massu held serve comfortably in the first seven games of the match, but in the eighth game of the first set poor serving by Massu helped Sela claim a break and the Israeli clinched the set in the following game by holding serve.
The Chilean reached his first break points of the second set in the sixth game of the second set, but Massu squandered his two opportunities and Sela held serve. Massu paid dearly for his missed chances as Sela took a 5-4 lead by breaking after the Chilean hit the ball into the net.
After claiming the second set with an ace, the Israeli had a golden opportunity to take a stranglehold on the match, but squandered break points in the first game of the third set.
Sela was, however, the first to break in the third set after another Massu unforced error in the 11 th game. The Israeli failed to serve out the match in the 12th game and Massu broke to send the set into a tiebreak. The Chilean was the more composed player in the breaker and his excellent forehand helped him sail to a 7-3 win.
Sela regained his sharpness at the start of the fourth set and broke in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Once more, however, Massu broke back immediately and the set remained tightly contested. The epic match would finally be decided in the 10 th game after Massu sent his volley wide on Sela's first match point.
"I knew Sela was a good player before the match and I wasn't surprised by his performance. I didn't underestimate him," Massu said. "I had my chances to send the match into a fifth set, but I missed a lot of easy shots. Sela made the most of his and that was the difference."
Gonzalez seemed to be cruising at the start of the match after taking the first two games, but Okun broke back and took a 5-4 lead with a forehand winner. The Israeli maintained his momentum in the following game and wrapped up the set after Gonzalez sent the ball into the net.
The Chilean opened the second set just like the first and led 2-0. Okun stunned the superior Gonzalez in the subsequent game, breaking to love before tying the set by holding serve in the fourth game.
A 40-0 lead in the sixth game should have been enough for Okun to go on and clinch it, but five straight points for Gonzlaez gave him the break and eventually the set.
For a third straight time Gonzalez opened a 2-0 lead at the start of a set, but his Israeli opponent broke back in the 10th game, with the Chilean serving for the set. Okun, however, failed to capitalize on his new found momentum and lost the set after dropping the next two games.
After splitting the first six games of the fourth set Gonzalez got the break he so desperately wanted after Okun put his forehand into the net. The Chilean held his serve for the remainder of the match and tied the score at the end of the first day.