Tennis: Fed Cup team faces tough tie in Austria

"This is extremely frustrating," says captain Oded Jacob.

Shahar Peer 88 (photo credit: AP)
Shahar Peer 88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's Fed Cup team will need to overcome yet another tough away tie if it's to advance to the World Group of the competition. Israel, which defeated Canada 32 in British Columbia over the weekend, was drawn on Wednesday to visit Austria in the World Group playoff that will be played July 14-15. "This is extremely frustrating," captain Oded Jacob said after hearing his squad was drawn to play away from home once again. "Our veteran players were hoping to have the chance to play in Israel, so it's very disappointing for them. "All four opponents we could have potentially faced are good sides. There are no easy matchups at this stage." A Fed Cup match hasn't been played in Israel since March 1996, when the blueand-white defeated Lithuania 3-0. "I'm upset and disappointed," Israeli No. 1 Shahar Pe'er said. "I wasn't bothered with who we would face. I just wanted to play at home." The Austrians, who reached the playoff after defeating Australia 4-1 in the first round of World Group II, are led by the world's 25th ranked player, Sybille Bammer, and by 16-year-old Tamira Paszek (84). Bammer and Paszek were extremely impressive in their singles matches against the Australians over the weekend, defeating Samantha Stosur (28) and Nicole Pratt (43) without dropping a single set. The Austrians are looking for a swift return to the World Group after being part of the elite eight for seven straight years before 5-0 losses to Spain and Japan in 2006 caused the team to drop down to World Group II. Yvonne Meusburger (106) and Melanie Klaffner (790) complete the Austrian squad, but barring injuries, the two are unlikely to feature in their team's singles matches. Israel and Austria have met in the Fed Cup twice in the past, with the blue-and-white winning 2-1 in 1982 and the Austrians gaining revenge with a 2-0 victory in 1987. "Bammer is an excellent player," Jacob said. "She's the only woman on tour who is also a mother. "We've had to do everything the hard way so far. We had a tough tie against Serbia and an away tie against Canada. I hope we can continue to succeed despite the difficulties." The highlight of the three remaining playoff ties sees five-time Fed Cup champion Spain host the Czech Republic. Belgium, which won the title in 2001, plays at home against China and Germany visits Japan. Ram and Erlich progress in Barcelona Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich advanced to the quarterfinals of the Open Seat Godo in Barcelona on Wednesday by defeating Russians Marat Safin and Dmitry Tursunov 76(8), 6-7(6), 11-9. The Israelis, who are No. 7 in the ATP Doubles Race and seeded third at the $900,000 tournament, will face fifth-seeded Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski in the last eight. Ram and Erlich could have clinched the match in the second set tiebreaker when they led 6-4. However, the Russians saved the two match points and came within a single point of advancing to the quarterfinals in the match tiebreaker. Safin and Tursuniv led 9-8 in the breaker, but three straight points by the Israelis booked the duo's place in the last eight.