Israel knocking on World Group’s door

A gutsy performance by Andy Ram sees Israel move to within one win of the Davis Cup World Group.

Andy Ram 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Andy Ram 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
A gutsy performance by Andy Ram saw Israel move to within one win of the Davis Cup World Group on Saturday.
Ram overcame a right hip injury and together with Yoni Erlich claimed a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 doubles victory over Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita to give Israel a 2-1 lead in the World Group playoffs ahead of Sunday’s reverse singles in Tokyo.
Israel and Japan split the first two singles matches on Friday, with Dudi Sela losing 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to Go Soeda before Amir Weintraub came up with the goods once more with a 6-3, 6-2, 6- 4 win over Ito.
Ram injured his hip during the second set at the Ariake Coliseum and admitted that he only decided to play through the pain because he didn’t want to let his country down.
“I haven’t felt this bad since my serious back injury in 2002,” Ram said.
“Yoni and I will have to pull out of our next tournament and I’m concerned this could be a serious injury. Had this been a regular tournament I would have retired, but I couldn’t do that in the Davis Cup.”
After missing Friday’s action, Japan’s No. 1, Kei Nishikori, ranked No. 16 in the world, is expected to be fit for Sunday’s first singles match against Dudi Sela.
Should Sela lose, the tie will come down to a fifth and decisive rubber between Weintraub and Soeda.
“I hope that our win will give Sela and Weintraub special energy,” said Ram. “I believe Sela has gotten used to the conditions and can surprise Nishikori, and if he doesn’t, it will be up to Weintraub, who put on a superb performance on Friday. No one gave us a chance to win in Japan, but we will benefit from our past experience in these situations.” On Friday, Weintraub proved once more that when it comes to the Davis Cup the ATP rankings should be thrown out of the window.
Weintraub, who celebrates his 26th birthday on Sunday, plummeted 23 places to No. 223 in the world last week, his lowest ranking in over a year, but he completely outplayed Ito, who is ranked 156 places above him..
Ito was playing in place of the injured Nishikori and Weintraub made the most of the opportunity to win his opening match for Israel for a fourth straight tie.
“I was surprised when I heard that Nishikori wasn’t going to play, but I was concentrating on myself,” said Weintraub, who won in one hour and 55 minutes, hitting 11 aces along the way.
“It was good news for us. It wasn’t easy against Ito, but of course Nishikori has a higher ranking.
“My serve was very good. He didn’t break me the whole match. I used good combinations, mixing up speeds and playing strong from the baseline. This was one of the better wins in my career.” Sela (98) registered an horrendous 72 unforced errors in his loss to Soeda (53) and admitted that he didn’t deserve to win.
“The start of the match was tough,” noted Sela. “I was short with my balls and he was aggressive. I felt better in the second set, but he was solid and didn’t give me any free points.
“I was more aggressive in the third set.
He was getting tired at the end of that set. If he kept playing like that I thought I could win the match, but then he took the first two games of the fourth set to love and he deserved to win.”
On TV: Davis Cup Tennis: Israel vs Japan (live on Sport5 at 7 a.m.)