Israel falls to Portugal, but still alive in Eilat

Despite 2-1 defeat, blue-and-white has everything to play for against Great Britain.

Shahar Peer 390 (photo credit: Reuters)
Shahar Peer 390
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel’s hopes of reaching the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs suffered a heartbreaking blow in Eilat on Thursday, but the blue-and-white still has its fate in its own hands ahead of its final Europe/Africa Zone Group I Pool C tie against Great Britain on Friday.
After edging the Netherlands 2-1 in its pool opener on Wednesday with a victory in the doubles match which ended after midnight, the national team experienced yet another excruciating tie against Portugal on Thursday.
The tie went down to the wire after Julia Glushko (World No. 211) beat Maria Joao Koehler (194) 6-4, 6-2 before Shahar Pe’er (37) was surprisingly thrashed 6-1, 6-2 by Michelle Larcher De Brito (136).
The four players returned to court after a short break for a decisive doubles match in another cold night in Israel’s most southern city, but Pe’er and Glushko couldn’t pull off a second straight nerve-wrecking win, falling 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to De Brito and Koehler to lose the tie 2-1.
“This is very disappointing,” Pe’er said. “We gave our all, but things didn’t go our way.
“I didn’t play that poorly in the singles, it was just that she played really well. I looked for solutions, but couldn’t find any.
“Julia did her job in the singles, but we couldn’t pull it off in the doubles.
“We start anew against Great Britain and we will do our best.”
A 3-0 victory over Judy Murray’s Great Britain team, which includes Elena Baltacha (57), Anne Keothavong (88), Heather Watson (106) and Laura Robson (118) will secure Israel first place in Pool C and a tie on Saturday against the winner of Pool A for a place in April’s World Group II playoffs.
A 2-1 win over the Brits and Israel’s fate will be decided by the outcome of the day’s other tie between Portugal and the Dutch.
An Israel defeat on Friday will see it drop out of contention regardless of other results.
Great Britain improved to a 2-0 record on Thursday with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands after beating Portugal 3-0 the previous day.
Israel will have to show a significant improvement from its performance in the first two days in Eilat to beat the Brits, with both Pe’er and Glushko looking so far very shaky.
Both Israel’s women have struggled desperately for consistency on their serve, something they will have to straighten out to have a chance of advancing.
Elsewhere, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich progressed to their second semifinal in three tournaments this year on Thursday, beating Daniele Bracciali and Lukas Rosol 7-5, 7-6 (4) in the Zagreb Indoors tournament.
Ram and Erlich reached the final in their first tournament of the year in Chennai, India, before losing to topranked Bob and Mike Bryan in the first round of the Australian Open.
The Israeli duo next faces Marcos Baghdatis and Mikhail Youzhny for a place in the final in Zagreb.