Israel in Austria for historic Fed Cup tie

Shahar Pe'er and Tzipi Obziler will play in Saturday's and Sunday's singles matches.

Shahar Peer 88 (photo credit: AP)
Shahar Peer 88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's Fed Cup team faces the most important tie in its history this weekend. The team plays Austria in Linz in the World Group playoff, with the winner booking its place among the world's top eight tennis nations. Shahar Pe'er, who dropped to No. 18 in the world earlier this week, and Tzipi Obziler, who is ranked at a career best No. 75, will play in Saturday's and Sunday's singles matches and will also likely team up for the final match of the tie, the doubles on Sunday evening. The soon to be retired Anna Smashnova (168) and 17-year-old Julia Glushko complete the squad, but barring injuries the two are unlikely to feature this weekend. "We have excellent players who are in great shape," team captain Oded Jacob said ahead of the tie. "We're determined and motivated and we're going to give our all. Its very difficult to predict how this tie will unfold, but I think we might have a slight advantage because we're a team and not just a collection of individuals." Israel advanced to the World Group playoff for the first time in its history two months ago with a 3-2 victory over Canada in British Columbia. Pe'er and Obziler are entering the tie in good form, despite relatively disappointing performances at Wimbledon. Pe'er, who lost to eventual finalist Marion Bartoli in the third round, and Obziler, who lost to Michaella Krajicek in the first round, are both experiencing the best year of their tennis careers in 2007. Austrian No. 1 Sybille Bammer (24) and No. 2 Tamira Paszek (35) are, however, also in the form of their lives and are the favorites to advance. Bammer and Paszek struggled on the grass courts at the All England Club last week, but more importantly had impressive showings on the clay at the French Open. This weekend's tie will be played on clay, which is bound to boost the confidence of Bammer, who only lost to world No. 1 Justine Henin in the fourth round at Roland Garros, and of Paszek, who fell to the Belgian in the second round. The Austrians reached the playoff after beating Australia 4-1 in the first round of World Group II, defeating Samantha Stosur (29) and Nicole Pratt (46) without dropping a single set. Austria is looking for a swift return to the World Group after being part of the elite eight for seven straight years before 5-0 loses to Spain and Japan in 2006 saw the team drop down to World Group II. Yvonne Meusburger (83) and Melanie Klaffner (639) complete the Austrian squad. Israel and Austria have met in the Fed Cup twice in the past, but never with so much hanging in the balance. The blue-and-white won 2-1 in 1982, but the Austrians gained revenge with a 2-0 victory in 1987.