Israel tennis team one win away from Davis Cup World Group

Doubles-duo Ram and Erlich give blue-and-white 2-1 lead vs Belgium with rollercoaster 5 set victory.

Ram and Erlich tennis370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ram and Erlich tennis370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel needs just one more win to maintain its Davis Cup World Group status on Sunday after Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich claimed a dramatic victory over Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis in Friday’s doubles encounter in Antwerp, Belgium.
Ram and Erlich looked to be cruising when they were leading by a set and a break, but they found themselves in trouble after Rochus and Darcis turned the match on its head by coming back to lead 2-1 in sets and by a break in the fourth set.
However, the veteran Israeli duo broke right back and soon tied the match before running away with the fifth set to claim a 6-3, 5-7, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory and give the blue-and-white a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday’s reverse singles.
Dudi Sela, who dropped to his fifth straight Davis Cup defeat on Thursday, claiming just five games against Darcis, is scheduled to play Ruben Bemelmans in the first match on Sunday and will be looking to snap his losing streak and secure Israel another year among the world’s top 16 nations.
Should Sela lose, Amir Weintraub, who fought back to beat Bemelmans in five sets on Thursday, is set to face Darcis in a fifth and decisive rubber, although Belgian captain Johan van Herck has indicated that he may alter the team’s lineup, which he is entitled to do until an hour before Sunday’s first match.
After recording two tight five-set victories to seize control of the tie, Israel captain Eyal Ran is optimistic his players can wrap up the win to ensure the blue-and-white will be part of the World Group for the fifth time in seven years in 2014.
“I think we are in the best position we could have hoped for after the first two days,” said Ran after Friday’s win in the doubles, which was completed less than two hours before the commencement of Yom Kippur in Antwerp.
“A couple of very close matches could have gone either way but they went our way. I think the win today will be an inspiration for Dudi and Amir. We will fight and I think we can do it.”
Ran had nothing but compliments for Ram and Erlich after they wrapped up their 14th Davis Cup win from their past 16 contests in the competition over the last eight years.
“It was a rollercoaster today,” Ran said. “Ram and Erlich showed a lot of courage, character and fighting spirit and they managed to be on top at the end. We lost our rhythm and confidence in the second set, but the most important thing is that we kept fighting.
It looked like a long way back when we were down a break in the fourth set, but the guys kept believing.”
Neither Darcis nor Rochus regularly play doubles on tour, with the former ranked just 464 in the world and the latter positioned at 312.
That showed at the beginning of the match, with Ram and Erlich having little trouble taking the first set and seemingly well on their way to a two-set cushion, holding three set points, leading 5-3 and 40-0 in the ninth game.
However, they squandered the set points and dropped their serve in the subsequent game, allowing the Belgians to tie the score before Rochus and Darcis completed a run of four straight games to take the set.
The hosts looked to be in complete control when they made it 11 games from 12 after sailing to a win in the third set and breaking in the first game of the fourth.
Ram and Erlich broke back, but found themselves just two games away from defeat after dropping their serve yet again (4-3).
However, the Israelis quickly tied up the score and another break of serve in the 12th game gave them the fourth set.
Ram and Erlich required only one break in the fourth game to claim the fifth set and put Israel in a promising position ahead of Sunday.
“We lost some chances in the second set and suddenly the pressure was on us,” said Ram. “We showed a lot of character and stayed calm. We believed in our abilities and we worked very hard for this match. This was for sure one of the best comebacks of our career.”