Okun: 'determination' key in Zimbabwe

The Israeli Davis Cup team practiced for the first time Tuesday in Harare, Zimbabawe.

The Israeli Davis Cup team practiced for the first time on Tuesday at the City Sports Center in Harare, Zimbabawe, the site of this weekend's crucial Europe/Africa Zone I relegation tie against the host country. After a long day of travel via Johannesburg on Monday, the foursome of Noam Okun, Dudi Sela, Yoni Erlich and Andy Ram together with non-playing captain Eyal Ran got to business on the hard courts of the indoor sports center, which was recently renovated. Ran has yet to officially nominate his team for the tie, but barring any unforeseen circumstances, Sela, who will make his Davis Cup debut, and Okun will play singles, while the top-10 doubles team of Ram and Erlich will concentrate on their specialty. Zimbabwe has only three players on its squad: Wayne Black, Genius Chidzikwe and Gwinyai Tongoona. Reports in Zimbabwe suggest that Black and Chidzikwe may play both singles and doubles. Okun, the senior member of the squad who has appeared in 20 ties, said he feels great and hopes "to bring my experience and determination" to the matches. Okun also called the tie "inconvenient" because of the "difficult conditions" and the fans that are reportedly loud. In women's tennis, Shahar Pe'er will return to action Wednesday when she faces her Grand Slam doubles partner Vera Douchevina in the first round of the China Open in Beijing. On Tuesday, Pe'er, with Australian Trudi Musgrave, lost 6-4, 6-3 in the first round to second seeds American Corina Morariu and Flavia Pennetta of Italy.