Tennis: Israel's ladies head to Austria for Fed Cup playoff

Shahar Pe'er, set to drop to No. 18 in the world, will be at forefront of the team, with Tzipi Obziler (75) number two.

peer action 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
peer action 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's Fed Cup team will leave for Linz, Austria on Monday, ahead of this weekend's historic World Group playoff. Israel, which defeated Canada 3-2 in the World Group II first round, has never reached this stage of the competition before and will be looking to advance past a strong Austrian side to book its place among the world's top eight sides. Shahar Pe'er, who will drop to No. 18 in the world on Monday, will be at the forefront of the team once again, with Tzipi Obziler (75) the team's number two. The soon to be retired Anna Smashnova (166) and 17-year-old Julia Glushko complete the squad. "We have excellent players who are in great shape," team captain Oded Jacob said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday. "We're determined and motivated and we're going to give our all. It's very difficult to predict how this tie will unfold, but I think we might have a slight advantage because we're a team and not just a collection of individuals." The Austrians, which reached the playoff after defeating Australia 4-1 in the first round of World Group II, are led by the world's 21st ranked player Sybille Bammer and 16-year-old Tamira Paszek (54). Bammer and Paszek were impressive in their singles matches against the Australians, defeating Samantha Stosur (28) and Nicole Pratt (40) without dropping a single set. The Austrians are looking for a swift return to World Group after being part of the elite eight for seven straight years, before 5-0 loses to Spain and Japan in 2006 saw the team drop down to World Group II. Yvonne Meusburger (98) and Melanie Klaffner (638) complete the Austrian squad, but barring injuries the two are unlikely to feature in their team's singles matches. "I've never played Paszek before and I've only played Bammer once, so I'm not really that familiar with them," said Pe'er, who has won her last 11 Fed Cup rubbers. "Every player will give her all, on and off the court. We don't know if we'll win or lose, but we will do our best to advance to the elite eight." 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 in 1987, with a 2-0 victory. "The Fed Cup is special and the energies of the event are very different from any other competition," Obziler said on Sunday. "We've been together as a team for years and advancing to the top eight will be a truly historic achievement."