On paper it looked like a done deal when Japan hosted Israel in the Davis Cup World Group play off – three players in the top 100 and another two ranked below 200, plus home court advantage. The Israeli team comprised two players outside of the top 100 and a really good doubles team, but without any backup in case of injury. In the end, age and experience saw the Israelis come through a very exciting tie 3-2.
Day one opened with Israeli number one, Dudi Sela, ranked 102, take on Go Soeda, ranked 53, after Japanese top racket Kei Nishikori was unable to play due to a shoulder injury. Soeda took the hard fought match 6-2 6-4 3-6 6-4. Next up was Israeli number two, Amir Weintraub, ranked 183, against Tatsuma Ito, ranked 67. Surprisingly, Weintraub won the encounter easily 6-4 6-2 6-3 with some great serving and excellent backhand winners, leaving the tie split at 1-1.
On day two the Israelis had a good chance of taking a 2-1 lead with their very experienced doubles team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, 2008 Australian Open winners and long time campaigners on the ATP tour. The Israelis has a bad start, losing the first set 7-5, but took an early break in the second set before Ram was taken off court for treatment for an injury in his right leg. Back on court it was obvious to all that he was limping and hardly able to run, but that did not stop Erlich from helping his partner out with great serving and short points to take that set 6-3. The Israeli duo went on to take the next two sets 6-3 6-1 and set up a tantalising final day.
First up on court was Sela against Kei Nishikori, who doctors decided was fit to play. The 16th ranked Japanese took the first set 6-3, but Sela came back to win the next two sets 6-3 6-4, before Nishikori took the fourth 6-4 and, after around five hours on court, broke Sela for a 6-5 lead in the final set and held to take the set 7-5 and level the tie at 2-2. This epic match was played in true David Cup spirit, which brought out the very best in both players right up to the nail biting final point, with fantastic shots and flair of the highest order.
This left Soeda to battle for a place in the World Group against Weintraub, 183 places below him in the rankings, but it was Weintraub who prevailed in another exciting match, 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3, to take the Israelis “back to where they belong”, as stated by Israeli team captain, Eyal Ran, in his post match interview.
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