Tennis: ITF approves Nokia Arena for Russia clash

Association hopes to generate extra income from playing the tie in Tel Aviv.

Dudi Sela 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Dudi Sela 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Russia in July looks set to take place at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv after the International Tennis Federation approved what is better known as Maccabi Tel Aviv's basketball arena as the hosting venue on Thursday. Israel traditionally hosts its Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties at the Canada Stadium in Ramat Hasharon, but the Israel Tennis Association opted for the Nokia Arena this time, hoping to generate extra income from playing the tie in Tel Aviv and give more fans a chance to watch their favorite players. One of Israel's top Davis Cup stars Dudi Sela was in action on Wednesday where he gave former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt a scare in the first-round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne. The No. 57-ranked Israeli, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser after falling in the second round of qualifying, lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 and will lose precious ranking points which came in stark contrast to his performance last year in Miami when he reached the third round. The No. 92-ranked Hewitt, playing because of a tournament wild card, will hope to end an 11-match losing streak against top 10 opponents when he faces No. 7 Gilles Simon in the second round. In blustery conditions, the 28-year-old Australian dropped serve five times but converted six of 11 break point opportunities on Sela's serve to seal the win in just under two hours. The former Wimbledon and US Open champion, a three-time semifinalist at Key Biscayne, slipped in the rankings last year after four months out for hip surgery and is hoping to improve his ranking significantly before Wimbledon this year. Hewitt is on the bottom half of the draw with No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Novak Djokovic and American Andy Roddick. Shahar Pe'er faced Belgian teenager Tamaryn Hendler in the first round of the women's tournament in Key Biscayne on Thursday night. Venus Williams awaits the Israeli in the second round. Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters is returning to the tennis circuit after two years in retirement, saying she has regained the competitive hunger that took her to the No. 1 ranking. "I still have that craving," the 25-year-old Belgian said Thursday. "I look forward to the challenge." Clijsters, who retired in May 2007 to get married and start a family, announced her comeback at the tennis facility in Bree, Belgium, where she has been practicing recently. She said she has already asked for wild cards for WTA hard-court tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto in August and the US Open. "I want to be back at my peak as soon as possible, but I know that is not logical to ask that," Clijsters said. "I will have to take it match by match." Clijsters won the 2005 US Open for her one Grand Slam title. She won 34 career titles overall and was runner-up in four Grand Slam finals. Rising to the top at the same time as another Belgian who retired early, Justine Henin, Clijsters held the No. 1 singles ranking for 19 weeks. "I am not coming back to lose in the first rounds," she said. "Otherwise I might as well go on holiday."