Blue-and-white takes on Turkey to open

Israel's Fed Cup team, including Shahar Pe’er, Julia Glushko, to complete in Europe/Africa Zone Group I opener in Eilat.

Shahar Pe'er 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Pe'er 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel’s Fed Cup team will face Turkey in its Europe/Africa Zone Group I opener in Eilat on Wednesday, a tie it can’t afford to lose if it has any intention of advancing from Pool C.
Amos Mansdorf is captaining the side for the first time on Wednesday and will hope to get more out of Shahar Pe’er, ranked No. 91 in the world, and Julia Glushko (181) than his predecessor Lior Mor managed to in the past two years when the Group I matches were also played in Eilat.
Turkey is undoubtedly the weakest team in Pool C, which also includes Poland and Romania, with Cagla Buyukakcay (163), Pemra Ozgen (284) and Basak Eraydin (309) the side’s top three players.
Israel will face Romania on Thursday and Poland on Friday before playing its final tie on Saturday.
Each tie will consist of three matches, two singles rubbers and one doubles.
Only the pool winner will progress to a tie against the first-place finisher in Pool A for a place in April’s World Group II playoffs.
With Poland boasting world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska and her sister Urszula Radwanska (37) and Romania having three top-50 players in Sorana Cirstea (27), Irina-Camelia Begu (47) and Simona Halep (49), Israel’s chances of winning the pool seem small to say the least despite having home-court advantage.
However, the tie against Turkey is still especially significant as the nations in last place in each pool will play-off to determine which two teams will be relegated to Group II in 2014.
“I’m very proud to be representing the country every year since I was 15,” said Pe’er, who has already suffered four defeats to players ranked 100 or lower this year. “I’m sure this will be a quality tournament and I hope that as many fans as possible come out to watch the matches.”
Israel’s pool looks to be the toughest of the four with Austria, Belarus and Croatia in Pool A, Bosnia, Great Britain, Hungary and Portugal in Pool B and Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Slovenia in Pool D.
For a second straight year, one of the most recognizable faces in Eilat will not even be a player, with Great Britain being captained by Andy Murray’s mother, Judy.
Judy Murray was pleased with her team’s draw and is hoping her side can progress to World Group II this year after falling short in the playoffs in 2012.
“It would be very difficult to come up against a team that has a very strong No. 1,” Murray told the official Fed Cup website. “Poland has got [Agnieszka] Radwanksa who is Top 5 and Belarus may have [Victoria] Azarenka, obviously the best player in the world. Romania is also a very solid team; they probably have about four girls who are ranked inside the Top 50. I think you could probably say that I was quite happy to have avoided all three of them!” Murray was looking forward to returning to Eilat.
“For me last year was obviously the first year of being involved with Fed Cup and it was a great experience,” said Murray, whose team is led by Heather Watson and Laura Robson.
“We’re going back to the same venue in Eilat so we know what to expect in terms of the court surface and so forth and the organization of the event. We are very much aiming to get out of that zone again and into another World Group play-off.”