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Israel's Davis Cup team will face an uphill battle to reach the World Group after being drawn on Wednesday to host a strong Chile side in its playoff tie over the weekend of September 21-23.
Chile, which lost 3-2 to Russia in the first round of the World Group in February, is an excellent side which boasts two superb singles players and an experienced doubles team. The South Americans are led by Fernando Gonzalez, the world's fifth- ranked player, and by Nicolas Massu (55), who was ranked as high as 9th in the world in September 2004.
Besides their superb singles play, Gonzalez and Massu also team up to play doubles for their country. The Chileans won the gold medal at the doubles tournament in the 2004 Athens Olympics and have a very good Davis Cup record as a team.
"It's no secret that Chile is an amazing team, but I think that any side coming to Israel should be concerned. It will be a tough match, but I believe in our team," Andy Ram said after hearing of the draw.
"Our goal right from the start has been to reach the World Group and nothing has changed. We are going to accomplish that goal."
The Chilean team, which returned to the World Group in 2005 for the first time in 20 years, is completed by Paul Capdevilla (150) and Adrian Garcia (151), who despite being both ranked higher than Israel's best player, rarely feature for the side. The South Americans reached the World Group quarterfinals in 2006, with their best Davis Cup performance coming in 1976, when they reached the final but lost to Italy 4-1 in Santiago.
Israel, who hasn't played a World Group playoff in nine years, is aiming to advance to the WG for the first time since 1994 and despite the tough draw captain Eyal Ran is optimistic his team has a chance against its superior opponent.
"I think this will be an outstanding tennis experience for all sports fans in Israel and I promise we will do our utmost to prepare for the tie to the best of our ability. It's no secret that Chile is the favorite, but at home we can win," Ran said.
Israel, which reached the playoff stage after defeating a superiorly ranked Italian team 3-2 over the weekend, will be hoping that home court advantage will yet again push the side to an unlikely victory against a top quality opponent.