Tennis: Israelis hopeful after Nadal pull-out

Ram, Erlich and Sela leave for Spain believing they can win Davis Cup semi.

Nadal sad 248.88 (photo credit: )
Nadal sad 248.88
(photo credit: )
Israel's Davis Cup players were cautiously optimistic on Sunday ahead of this weekend's Davis Cup semifinal against Spain. Dudi Sela (35), Harel Levy (138), Andy Ram, Yoni Erlich, Noam Okun and captain Eyal Ran arrived in Murcia on Sunday, as they stepped up their preparations for the historic tie. The team was welcomed by stormy weather in Murcia and had to settle for a workout in the gym. The news that Rafael Nadal will miss the best-of-five series gave the Israelis a small boost, even though all involved still believe Spain is a massive favorite to advance to the final and play the winner of the other semi between Croatia and the Czech Republic. "Playing in the semis of the Davis Cup is a dream come true. This is an historic achievement for Israeli sports," Ram said on Sunday. "The fact the Nadal isn't playing gives us a bit of motivation that maybe we can do it. Had he played he would have certainly won both his matches. Nevertheless, every one of their players is better than us on paper. "We are coming as an underdog and without any pressure. That could be to our advantage and maybe we just might be able to steal an historic victory." Levy didn't fly with the rest of the team from Israel, coming directly from Genoa, Italy, where he played a Challenger event last week. The 31-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals in Genoa, is hoping the clay courts of Italy will be a good preparation for Murcia's red surface. "I got used to playing on clay and feel ready for the tie," Levy said. "I'm slightly disappointed Nadal will not play, although it does increase our chances of winning." Even without Nadal (3) and Fernando Verdasco (10), the Spanish team includes four players in the world's top-40: Tommy Robredo (15), David Ferrer (19), Juan Carlos Ferrero (25) and Feliciano Lopez (37). "I'm happy Nadal isn't playing, but they still have some of the best players in the world," Sela said. "Spain is the best team in the world."