Israel Creates History In Davis Cup
The score was an unassailable 3-0 in the Davis Cup quarter-final with the victors being Israel over two-time champion, Russia.
Initially, this would give a cruel shock to anyone having a glimpse of the result for the first time.
But on having a closer look at the players who comprised the field on both sides, the intensity of the shock would perhaps be reduced.
Russia was bereft of their No. 1 player, Nikolay Davydenko, and the ever-unpredictable Marat Safin was drawn to do national duty only in doubles alongside Igor Kunitsyn.
And the heavy burden of the singles ties lay on the inexperienced shoulders of Igor Andreev and 2002 Davis Cup hero, Mikhail Youzhny, who are ranked 26th and 44th respectively.
On the other hand, Israel was armed with the 33rd ranked Dudi Sela, who produced his career-best performance at Wimbledon this year and the formidable 2008 Australian Open doubles champions, Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich.
World No. 210 Harel Levy was the lowest ranked and the only un-fancied player.
And the result was that Russia was reduced to rubble in just two days, while Israel reached their first-ever Davis Cup semi-final.
Harel Levy set the tone at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv by creating a colossal upset when he defeated Igor Andreev 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
And the in-form Dudi Sela then duly obliged by beating the former World No. 8 player Mikhail Youzhny 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5 and soon Russia was staring at the jaws of defeat.
The doubles task was cut out for Safin and Kunitsyn. Even though they put in a marvelous effort by stretching the match to the decider, they finally had to bow down to the insuperable Israeli duo.
As Ram and Erlich reached the defining moment after defeating the Russians in a near-four hour thrilling tussle 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6,and 6-4, the entire crowd of 11, 000 people erupted in joy while the players leapt into each other’s arms.
While Israeli captain Eyal Ran was lifted by his players, former World No.1 Marat Safin was left to reflect on his performance as this was his last Davis Cup outing before retirement.
An emotional Ram said in a courtside interview, "For the first time I have absolutely nothing to say... I started to cry like a little boy."
The sensational victory sparked a nationwide celebration which even spurred Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Israel Tennis Association Director-General Moshe Haviv on Saturday and said, "You put Israel back on the map.’’
Russia did salvage some pride on Sunday when they gained one point as Dudi Sela retired 3-4 in the inconsequential reverse singles and Harel Levy completed the formalities by establishing the final score at 4-1.
Israel will now face defending champions Spain who earned a hard-fought victory over Germany at Marbella.
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