Israel grabs World playoffs spot as Poles falter

Sela, Weintraub, Ram & Erlich all win; ‘No one can beat us at Ramat Hasharon’.

amir weintraub 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
amir weintraub 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel clinched a spot in the Davis Cup World Group playoffs on Saturday after a convincing two-day performance against Poland that infused new optimism into the national team.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich secured Israel’s place in September’s playoffs for a place among the top 16 nations with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg, rendering Sunday’s final two singles matches meaningless.
Dudi Sela, ranked number 86 in the world, gave the blue-and-white an ideal start on Friday with a 6-1, 6- 3, 6-4 victory over Marcin Gawron (362) in the opening match of the Europe/Africa Zone Group I tie before Amir Weintraub (257) defeated Jerzy Janowicz (150) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in a dream Davis Cup debut to give Israel a 2-0 lead which Ram and Erlich would convert into a victory with their eighth straight home win.
“This entire tie was amazing,” Israel captain Eyal Ran said. “The players made easy work of it. Andy and Yoni were excellent, and even though they were down a set, they knew how to lift themselves. Everyone deserves the credit. This was a real team effort. Every player contributed a point.”
While Sela and Ram and Erlich were favored to win their matches, the pleasant surprise of the weekend was the play of Weintraub.
No one knew what to expect from the 24-year-old with no previous David Cup experience, but Weintraub proved he can be an adequate replacement as the team’s new No. 2 following the retirement of Harel Levy and Noam Okun.
“This was an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the next tie,” Weintraub said. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue in the fourth set, but the fans and the team pushed me to this victory. I sprained my ankle, but managed to maintain my focus and come through.”
After being broken in the crucial 10th game to lose the first set, Weintraub bounced back to claim the second and third sets with relative ease and served for the match in the 10th game of the fourth.
However, Janowicz broke back and sent the match into a decider by taking the last three points of the tiebreaker.
Weintraub made the breakthrough in the fifth set with a break of serve in the eighth game, and held the subsequent game to clinch a famous victory.
“We threw Weintraub into the deep end and he showed us he can swim with the best,” Ram said. “We recorded a massive team victory and the fans got full value for their money.”
Ram and Erlich were broken in the third game of Saturday’s match and the Poles held their serve throughout the first set.
The Israeli duo finally got their first break in the 10th game of the second set to tie the encounter and recorded early breaks in the third and fourth sets to clinch the victory for the national team.
“We haven’t felt this good for a while,” said Erlich, who together with Ram has only won two of eight matches on the ATP tour so far this year. “After our struggles in recent months we were hoping for a match like this. We knew we could beat Poland and we felt no pressure. No one can beat us at Ramat Hasharon.”