Experienced Israeli team will play Davis Cup tie against SA
The 32-year-old Dudi Sela, currently ranked 95 in the world in singles, will be the highest-ranked singles player at the tie. Jonathan Erlich, now 40 years old and ranked 83 in doubles, is still out there on the circuit and will add value to the Israeli doubles team.
Edan Leshem (ranked 255 in singles), Igor Smilansky (460) and Daniel Cukierma make up the balance of the team.
Harel Levy, who has played in South Africa previously, will captain the team.
The South African team comprises Lloyd Harris, ranked 291, Nic Scholtz (326), Ruan Roelofse (716), specialist doubles player Raven Klaasen, ranked 25 in doubles, and Tucker Vorster. Marcos Ondruska will captain the local team.
In a bid to make the Davis Cup more exciting and player-friendly, organisers The International Tennis Federation (ITF) have have changed the rules at the Johannesburg event: they’ve shortened the ties to the best-of-three sets. This, after players complained about playing a tournament in Europe, then having to fly to Johannesburg to play a couple of matches at high altitude, and then flying back to Europe overnight to play the following day. The new experiment will allow players to play three matches on the Saturday and finish the tie a day earlier.
Speaking from Seattle last week, Ondruska admitted he wasn’t sure who these new rules would suit. “I don’t think anybody knows. It’s a new system and we’ve been thrown in the deep end. We still have to figure out how it will work. I think it will probably suit teams with only two good singles players who have to play singles and doubles.
“But because the rubbers are shorter, there is less room for error. We will have to think quickly on our feet.”
Asked whether the system would be abused by allowing captains to change players around at whim, the South African captain replied: “It has actually been abused for years. The only difference was, you needed to get a doctor’s certificate to confirm the player was ill. But you very rarely found a doctor who wouldn’t allow a player to drop out, even if he suspected the captain was just making a shrewd move. No doctor would force a player to participate. Can you imagine what would happen if that player collapsed on the court?”
The ITF will be sending a delegation to South Africa to monitor the tie.
Sela is one of the shortest players on the men’s tour, but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in guts and stamina. He has been a regular member of the Israeli Davis Cup team and was a key member of the team that won through to the semifinals of the World Group tournament in 2009 in which they beat Chile, Russia and Sweden before losing to Spain, in Spain – a team led by Rafael Nadal.
Erlich also played in that team and, along with Andy Ram, proved to be a formidable doubles team who won the Australian Open in 2008.
Little is known about the other members of the team other than the fact that a decent future is predicted for Lashem, who is 20 years old. He recently attempted to qualify for the Australian Open but lost early.
Smilansky and Cukierma make up the balance of the team and are both 22 years old.
Ondruska conceded this would be a tough tie. He played in Tel Aviv in 2001 along with Neville Godwin and Jeff Coetzee, where South Africa lost 3-2. Ondruska played the final tie and almost came back from two sets to love down to win it against Noam Okun, but the Israeli crowd kept shouting out at big points and had cell phones ringing at vital moments in the match.
“I would love to get revenge for that tie,” admitted Ondruska.
There is a lot at stake for the winners as they will then play the Czech Republic for a place in the World Group next year.
“The game plan is simple,” said Ondruska. “Take care of the fundamentals.”
He will be joined by Jeff Coetzee, who will be the assistant coach for the tie.
The Israeli team will arrive in South Africa on the weekend.
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