Analysis: Game, set, match on our Fed Cup future?

Even if Israel's Fed Cup team had defeated Estonia on Sunday, its victory in Tallinn would have only postponed the inevitable.

obziler 88 (photo credit: )
obziler 88
(photo credit: )
Even if Israel's Fed Cup team had defeated Estonia, its victory in Tallinn would have only postponed the inevitable. The future of women's tennis in Israel is looking bleak, to say the least, and the recent Fed Cup successes will likely not be repeated for years. Shahar Pe'er has carried the team ever since Anna Smashnova played her last Fed Cup match in 2006, but for all her talent and success, the 22-year-old can't single-handedly keep Israel among the world's elite nations. Israel's historic participation in the World Group, in which only the top eight nations play, was a result not only of Pe'er's winning form, but also of Tzipi Obziler's remarkable play. In the 10 ties leading up to the national team's World Group first round encounter against Russia last year, going all the way back to April 2005, Obziler claimed 12 of her 13 matches, with the only loss coming in a meaningless doubles rubber in Canada. Despite her mediocre results on the professional tours, Obziler always knew how to raise her level of play for her country and is still doing so well into her mid-thirties. In fact, the only reason the 36-year-old still plays the occasional professional match is to remain in shape for Israel's international ties. However, with every year that passes Obziler has struggled more and more, and it won't be long before she won't be able to compete at the high level required in the Fed Cup World Groups. It is only natural that at the age of 36 Obziler's career is coming to a close, and that wouldn't be a problem if the team had a real replacement for her, but it doesn't. The only genuine prospect is 19-year-old Julia Glushko, who is currently ranked 306th in the world. However, Glushko has yet to show the potential of becoming a top-100 player, as Obziler was at her peak, and has still got a long way to go before she can play at the level her veteran teammate has accustomed us to in recent years. There doesn't seem to be any other Israeli player who is even threatening to become the Fed Cup number 2 and fill Obziler's shoes in the next few years, leaving Israeli tennis in its current very unhealthy situation. As the tie in Ukraine earlier this year made painfully clear, even if Pe'er plays out of her skin and claims both her singles rubbers in practically every tie, as she did in February, the national team will still struggle to take the third point needed to clinch the victory. As long as there is no adequate replacement for Obziler, and that may take time, Israel will have practically no chance of reaching the World Group again and will be very fortunate even to play in World Group II. As things currently stand, it seems far likelier that the doldrums of the Europe/Africa Zone will be Israel's home for quite a few years to come and its appearance in the World Group last year will prove to be no more than a coincidental occurrence.