Russia's Safin claims Israel is "lucky" to be in Davis Cup quarters
"I'm very proud of our victory against Sweden," says Captain Eyal Ran, quick to defend Israel's achievement.
By ALLON SINAI
Marat Safin claimed on Tuesday that Israel's Davis Cup team was "lucky" to make it into the quarterfinals of the competition.
Israel defeated Sweden 3-2 on the road in the World Group first round four months ago, and the former world number 1, who will be playing for Russia at the Nokia Arena this weekend, believes Eyal Ran's men only advanced to the last eight because they were facing an under-strength Sweden team.
"With all due respect, Israel was lucky to get to the quarterfinals," Safin said on Tuesday. "Sweden practically had no players. Thomas Johansson was semi-retired and Andreas Vinciguerra hadn't played professionally for five years."
Safin dropped 36 places to number 60 in the world on Monday, but the 29-year-old, who will retire at the end of the season, is optimistic he will be in top form for the tie against Israel, which gets underway with two singles matches on Friday.
"It doesn't really matter that I haven't done very well recently," Safin said. "I'm ready for the tie and I'm feeling confident."
Safin doesn't believe he will be troubled by the rowdy local support.
"I don't think it's going to get any worse than Chile or Argentina," he said. "We just want to try and have fun and whoever is better will win."
Israel's number 2 singles player in the tie, Harel Levy (210), feels Safin's remarks regarding Israel's route to the quarterfinals might play into the national team's hands.
"Anyone can say what the like. He's obviously very confident and maybe that will mean he will be loose on court," Levy said.
Captain Eyal Ran was quick to defend Israel's achievement.
"I'm very proud of our victory against Sweden," Ran said. "Russia is a very good team and I think they are under a lot of pressure because they are the favorites."
Andy Ram, who will play with Yoni Erlich in the doubles match on Saturday, is desperate for the tie to get underway.
"We've had two excellent training sessions. The chemistry is back to what it used to be," said Ram, who has hardly played with Erlich in the past 10 months.
"I think we will give the team the point it needs from the doubles match. We have had enough of talking about the tie. We can't wait to start and play."
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