Israel, no longer in World Group, hosts Poles

Davis Cup showdown could send blue-and-white on its way back to the top.

Dudi Sela 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Dudi Sela 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The last time Israel’s Davis Cup team dropped out of the World Group in 1994, it took 14 years to reclaim its place among the top 16 nations.
Israel’s 3-2 defeat to Austria last September sent it down to the Europe/Africa Zone Group I after three years among the world’s best.
But the blue-and-white has an excellent opportunity to move within one victory of a swift return to prominence when it hosts Poland at Ramat Hasharon this weekend.
Israel’s players are entering the tie in a far from ideal situation after a rocky start to 2011.
Israel’s number 1, Dudi Sela, ranked number 86 in the world, has only won two matches thus far this year, failing to make it past the second round of any of the six tournaments he has played to date.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich’s much-anticipated comeback has so far resulted in just two wins in eight matches, with the duo being knocked out in the first round in four of six tournaments.
The national team will also be sporting a new No. 2 this weekend, with debutant Amir Weintraub (257) to replace the freshly retired Harel Levy and Noam Okun.
However, even with so much uncertainty surrounding the team, there is plenty of optimism in the Israel camp thanks to the absence of Poland’s two best singles players, Michal Przysiezny (113) and Lukasz Kubot (128), and the return to Ramat Hashaeon after two ties at Nokia Arena.
“We respect the Polish team, but we have prepared very well for this tie and I believe that we will make the most of our opportunities and advance to the World Group playoffs,” Israel captain Eyal Ran said.
Sela faces Marcin Gawron (362) in Friday’s opening singles match before Weintraub plays Jerzy Janowicz (150).
Saturday’s doubles encounter promises to be of the highest level, with Ram and Erlich to face the excellent Polish duo of Marcin Matkowski (9) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg (10).
The reverse singles will be played on Sunday, with Sela first on court against Janowicz before the fifth and possibly decisive match between Weintraub and Gawron.
“We are happy Dudi is playing the first match because he is an experienced player and he can take some of the pressure off Amir with a win,” Ran said. “Amir has waited for this opportunity for a long time and he has made a lot of progress over the past year. I believe he can beat both Polish players and hopefully he will get his Davis Cup career off to a winning start.”
Ram and Erlich have won their last seven Davis Cup doubles matches in Israel, and despite facing one of the top teams in the world on Saturday, the Israelis are confident of giving the national team a vital point once more.
“We believe in our ability and we have a pretty good record in Israel,” Erlich said. “We have a lot of respect for the Poles and we are facing a real challenge. But they are up against an even greater challenge. We feel that we are playing well and we believe we will win.”