FED Cup Tennis: Top-16 survival on the line for Israel

Pe'er and Co. need to beat Estonia away from home this weekend to avoid relegation.

peer takes shot 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
peer takes shot 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's Fed Cup team will be hoping to claim its first victory since July 2007 in Tallinn, Estonia, this weekend, knowing a fourth straight defeat will see it fall out of the world's top-16 nations and back into the doldrums of the Europe/Africa Zone. Israel made an historic appearance in the World Group in 2008, losing to Russia at Ramat Hasharon in what was its first defeat in almost three years. The losses continued to pile-up after that, with the team dropping out of the World Group last year following a 3-2 defeat to the Czech Republic. After losing to Ukraine by the same score-line earlier this year, the Israelis now find themselves facing the prospect of relegation to the Europe/Africa Zone. The national team's World Group II playoff tie against an improving Estonia team will be tricky to say the least. The tiny Baltic nation is undefeated in the competition since 2007, and has only lost one rubber - a dead doubles - in seven ties over the last two years. All of those matches were played in Tallinn and the hosts will surely be confident of claiming yet another home victory this weekend, especially with their number 1, Kaia Kanepi, playing some of the best tennis of her career in recent months. The 23-year-old is currently ranked at a career-best No. 19 in the world and her match against Shahar Pe'er (53 in the world) on Sunday could very well determine the outcome of the entire tie. On Saturday, Pe'er will face Estonia's No. 2 Maret Ani, who is ranked 111th in the world and has won her last eight Fed Cup matches. For the first time in years Tzipi Obziler (228) might not be Israel's No. 2 on Saturday, with captain Lior Mor seriously considering to play Julia Glushko (306) instead of the 36-year-old veteran. Obziler, who is set to equal Anna Smashnova's Fed Cup record of 61 appearances this weekend, struggled with a back injury in recent weeks. Even though she seems to be back to full fitness, Mor may be tempted to rest her for Sunday when he might need her to play a singles and a doubles match within several hours. "Obziler is training well and looking good, but we're still considering our options," Mor said. The order of Saturday's and Sunday's matches will be determined in a draw on Friday, with the tie to be decided by a doubles match if the score is tied at 2-2. In all likelihood Mor will need Pe'er to win both her singles matches for the side to have a reasonable chance of winning the tie. Pe'er has shown signs she's getting back to her best this year and claimed two impressive victories against Ukraine's Bondarenko sisters in Israel's last tie in February. "Kanepi has improved in the last couple of years, but I also need to be careful against Ani, who is a good player," Pe'er said. "I need to claim victories against both of them and I hope I'll be at my best."