Blue-and-white headed to Japan for playoffs

Israel’s chances of returning to the Davis Cup World Group after three years have shrunk significantly.

Amir Weintraub 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Amir Weintraub 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel’s chances of returning to the Davis Cup World Group after three years shrank significantly on Wednesday when the national team was drawn to visit Japan in September’s playoffs.
Israel defeated Portugal 3-2 at Ramat Hasharon last weekend to move back within one victorious tie of a place among the world’s top 16 nations. However, after hosting its past four encounters, the blue-and-white was handed a draw it was hoping to avoid on Wednesday.
Japan, which played in the World Group earlier this year for the first time since 1985, losing 3-2 to Croatia, is led by world No. 18 Kei Nishikori.
The 22-year-old was only defeated in the Australian Open quarterfinals by Andy Murray in January and has a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic to his name from last year.
Japan, which hosts the tie over the weekend of September 14-16, has two more players in the top 100 in Go Soeda (77) and Tatsuma Ito (98) and prior to its loss to Croatia was undefeated on home soil since 2007.
Israel, which has fortuitously hosted 10 of its last 13 ties, has lost its past two road encounters, not winning away from home since beating Sweden 3-2 to progress to the World Group quarterfinals in 2009.
However, the blue-and-white will draw some encouragement from the fact that its defeats in Chile and Spain both came on the clay courts the Israeli players so despise and that Japan is likely to host the tie in an indoor arena as it usually does.
“This is the toughest draw we could have gotten, but we have competed on the road with teams just as strong as Japan in the past,” said Andy Ram, who together with Yoni Erlich will be expected to give Israel a win in the doubles match, with Japan not having a top duo of its own.
“We will go to Japan with the target of returning to the World Group and I believe we have a chance to beat them.”
Israel No. 1 Dudi Sela (61) echoed his teammate’s sentiment.
“After four straight home ties it will be strange to play on the road,” Sela said.
“This is a very difficult draw. They have three players in the top 100 and Nishikori is an especially excellent player.
It will be very difficult to progress but we will give our all.”