Davis Cup: Andy and Yoni keep Israeli hopes alive

Ram and Erlich win crucial doubles match in Coquimbo to cut Chile’s lead to 2-1.

any ram and yoni erlich 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
any ram and yoni erlich 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
It’s not over yet.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich overcame a poor start to defeat Chile’s Jorge Aguilar and Paul Capdeville 7-6(5), 6-7(9), 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 in Sunday’s doubles match and keep Israel’s Davis Cup hopes alive for another day.
The result on a chilly afternoon in the northern Chilean port town of Coquimbo cut the hosts’ lead to 2-1 going into the crucial reverse singles matches.
On Monday Dudi Sela will attempt to repeat his heroic 2007 World Group playoff victory against Fernando Gonzalez and Harel Levy will face Nicolas Massu.
Israel captain Eyal Ran said he is confident Sela will put up a strong fight against Gonzalez.
“Dudi is a magician, we all believe in him. He can defeat anybody,” Ran told The Jerusalem Post.
“He is the leader of this team and we know he will give everything and more.”
Israel’s chances of advancing to a World Group quarterfinals matchup with the Czech Republic were slim enough on Sunday morning after both Sela and Levy had lost their opening singles rubbers the previous day, putting the hosts in a commanding 2-0 advantage.
Ram and Erlich knew they had to win or Israel would be out. They had won the doubles rubber last time Israel faced Chile, defeating Gonzalez and Masu in a four-set classic two-and-a-half years ago. They might have hoped for an easier match this time around, but it was not to be.
After three sets of doubles play and the Chileans up 2-1, the tie looked all but finished.
However, the experienced Israelis found their form at the crucial moment, coming back with force to drop only a single game while taking the fourth and fifth sets.
“It wasn’t easy as we knew had to win. All the credit to the Chileans, we won by the skin of our teeth,” Erlich said after the three-and-a-quarter hour match was over.
“We are not used to playing on clay, but our experience got us through,” Ram added. “We played our own game and became more aggressive as it continued.
“It’s great – we are still in it.”
The doubles match was expected to be far easier for Ram and Erlich as Chile captain Hans Gildemeister elected to rest his top doubles pairing of Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu after they both came through four-set singles matches on Saturday.
The decision paid dividends early on, with the inexperienced Chilean duo surprising their Israeli opponents by taking the first set on a tie break.
The 27-year-old Capdeville is ranked only 146th in the world at singles and has a doubles ranking of 1,197 while Aguilar is two years younger, ranked No. 223 in singles and 436th in doubles.
Ram and Erlich, meanwhile, are one of the most experienced doubles teams in the world, with Ram ranked ninth in doubles and Erlich 101 due to an injury break last year.
Aguilar and Capdeville had Ram and Erlich on the ropes from the off, nearly breaking the Israelis in the first game of the first set before Erlich saved a break point on his serve.
The hosts had another chance to break in the fifth game and this time they took it, moving into a 4-2 lead. They could not hold on and the visiting duo broke back to send the set into a tie break, only for the Chileans to come out on top.
The Israelis didn’t start the second set well either, with the hosts breaking in the fourth game to take a 3-1 advantage.
With the score in games at 5-3 and Aguilar serving, the Chileans appeared to be heading into a two sets to love lead. But Ram and Erlich had other ideas, breaking back to keep themselves in the set, and the match and what was becoming a lengthy contest went into an equally lengthy second tie break.
After the pairs traded serves the Israelis finally made the breakthrough to tie the score at one set all, with Ram sending a stinging cross court back hand straight at Capdeville who could only hit it into the net.
Again the Israelis started a set badly, with their opponents breakingin the first game of the third. Soon the hosts were leading 4-1 and theIsraelis put up little fight. Ram and Erlich got their game going inthe fourth set, breaking in the second game to take control and stormto take the set 6-1.
And the Israelis continued the momentum into the fifth and final set,breaking the Aguilar serve in the first game and following it up withanother break in the third game before cruising to a hard-foughtvictory.
Asaf Kliger contributed to this report