Tennis: Czech mate! Pe'er's defeats cost Israel

Oded Jacob's team knocked out of Fed Cup World Group after losing decisive doubles.

Fed Cup tennis 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Fed Cup tennis 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
This wasn't how it was meant to be. Shahar Pe'er and Tzipi Obziler left Ramat Hasharon's Canada Stadium in tears on Sunday night after losing the deciding doubles match of the Fed Cup World Group playoff tie against the Czech Republic to Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke. The Israelis fought for every point throughout the tie on Saturday and Sunday, but fell short in heartbreaking fashion and will now have to get used to life in World Group II following the 3-2 defeat to the Czechs. After splitting Saturday's singles matches, Israel knew that it would require two wins on Sunday to maintain its status among the world's elite eight nations. For a second straight day Pe'er failed to live up to the expectations and crumbled in the closing stages of her match against Benesova, losing 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4. The 35-year-old Obziler once more came to her good friend's rescue and steamrolled Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4 to send the tie into a decisive doubles encounter. Pe'er and Obziler had their moments in the doubles match, but the superiority of Benesova and Kveta Peschke, who is the worlds fifth ranked doubles player, was clearly evident and the Czech's claimed the match 6-4, 6-3 and progressed to the World Group. "This is a very painful defeat," Israel captain Oded Jacob said. "Both teams are quite equal, but the deeper side eventually won. They could split the load between their players while we only had two players. Our team gave its all, but that simply wasn't enough. I'm very proud of my team." Despite the agonizing loss, Pe'er was in a defiant mood. "This isn't the end of the world. We're still among the world's top 16 teams and hopefully we can advance to the last eight once again next year," Pe'er said. "I fought in all my matches in this tie and could have won every one of them. In sport you sometimes lose, that's the way it is." In the first match of the day, Pe'er (18 in the world) came within two games of a victory over Benesova (95), but lost the last four games of the match, falling to her third straight Fed Cup defeat. Israel's No. 1, who had previously won 10 consecutive singles matches in the competition, won a tight first set tiebreak 8-6 after the Czech, who was given the nod ahead of the visitors' No. 1 Lucie Safarova (40), sent her forehand wide. Benesova, however, improved her play as the match progressed and claimed the only break of the second set in the fourth game. Pe'er couldn't make any impression on Benesova's service games and the Czech tied the match with a 6-3 win in the second set. In the sixth game of the third set Pe'er seemed to have taken a crucial 4-2 lead after the Czech sent her backhand into the net and was on the verge of bursting into tears. Benesova would, however, quickly regain her cool and broke back immediately with a backhand winner. Momentum was now squarely with the Czech, who broke once more in the 10th game of the set and clinched the win after Pe'er sent a forehand long. Obziler (98) knew she had to win to keep the tie alive and did so in emphatic fashion. Despite losing the first two games of the match, Obziler went on to claim 10 of the next 11 games to take an unassailable lead. Kvitova (100), who beat Pe'er on Saturday, had no answer to the veteran's accurate play and fell short in her late comeback attempt, and the score was tied at 2-2. Half-an-hour after ending her singles match, Obziler returned to play the doubles with Pe'er, but despite a valiant effort the Israeli's kept on coming short in the important points. After splitting the first eight games of the match, Benesova and Peschke held serve to love in the ninth game and won the first set when Obziler sent her forehand into the net in the subsequent game. The second set was just as tight as the first, but an eight point run gave the Czech's a important 5-3 lead. Pe'er and Obziler saved four match points in the ninth game, but in the fifth Peschke's volley winner gave the Israeli's no chance and Israeli eyes began to flood. "Unfortunately, the Czech's played really well and we lost," said Obziler, who surprised everybody with two heroic victories in her singles matches. "This is a massive disappointment."