Austria in town to take on blue-and-white

Israel sets sights on maintaining its place among top 16 nations for a fourth straight season.

Davis Cup 311 (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Davis Cup 311
(photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Israel No. 1 Dudi Sela knows he will have to give the national team an early lead if it’s to have a good chance of getting the better of Austria in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie that gets underway at the Nokia Arena on Thursday afternoon.
Sela, ranked No. 85 in the world, faces Andreas Haider-Maurer (180) in the first match of the best-of-five tie on Thursday, with Austria’s No. 1 Jurgen Melzer (13) to play Harel Levy (223) in the second match of the day.
The tie at the Nokia Arena begins a day earlier than the other playoff encounters due to the fact Yom Kippur falls on Saturday.
The doubles match between Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich and Melzer and Alexander Peya will take place on Friday morning, with the reverse singles to go ahead as usual on Sunday.
With Melzer in the form of his life, it will be essential for Sela to end his threematch Davis Cup losing streak on Thursday and make sure Israel enters the second day with at least one point.
“Playing in the first match of the tie might be an advantage as Haider- Maurer could be a little nervous because he will be making his Davis Cup debut,” said Sela, whose last win in the competition came in last July’s quarterfinals against Russia.
“I need to claim this point. I can’t wait for the start of the match.”
After advancing to the World Group three years ago for the first time since 1994, Israel is aiming to maintain its place among the top 16 nations for a fourth straight season, just one year short of the longest streak in the blueand- white’s history, set between 1987 and 1991.
“We have made an ideal preparation for this tie and the players are looking forward to starting the matches,” Israel captain Eyal Ran said. “Good things happen when we play in the Davis Cup and I hope that will be the case once more.”
Austria, which is competing in the World Group playoffs for the eighth consecutive year, will be counting on Melzer to carry the team back to the World Group after it was relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone Group I last year.
“I’m used to playing in both the singles and the doubles matches and the extra rest day will also help,” said the 29-year-old Melzer, who after years as a top-50 player made his big breakthrough in the past six months, reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros and the last 16 at Wimbledon and the US Open.
“I’m a completely different player these days and I’m feeling very confident after having an amazing season.”
Haider-Maurer has also been in good form recently, coming through three rounds of qualifiers at Flushing Meadows before taking world No. 5 Robin Soderling to five sets in the first round of the main draw.
“I’m the underdog in the match against Sela, but I have a lot of confidence from the last few weeks and I believe I can win,” Haider-Maurer claimed.
Sela and Levy both struggled in Israel’s last two ties, which each ended in 4-1 defeats to Spain (in last year’s semifinals) and Chile (this year’s first round).
However, those meetings were both played on the road and on the clay courts the two Israelis so despise.
Beforehand, Israel had taken seven of its last eight ties on hard courts, with Sela winning eight of 10 matches and Levy claiming three of four encounters.
“Clearly I am facing a tough match against Melzer,” Levy said. “But I hope to get the job done. It will be difficult for me, but I hope it won’t be easy for him either.”