Israel’s Davis Cup team have been knocked out of the tournament’s World Group after suffering a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat by Argentina over the weekend.
Played at the Sunrise Tennis Club in Florida, the Israelis went into the final day of action 2-1 up, but needing to win just one of Sunday’s last two rubbers, both Dudi Sela and Bar Botzer lost their matches in straight sets, meaning Israel have been relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone Group I.
Botzer, ranked 776 in the world rankings, had lost the tie’s opening rubber 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 1-6 to Leonardo Mayer, ranked 25 in the world, though Sela (84) levelled the tie in Friday’s second match when he beat Carlos Berloco (67) 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2.
Saturday’s doubles rubber proved to be an emotional affair as Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich – the former in all probability playing for his country for the last time – beat Horacio Zeballos and Federico Delbonis 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a five-set epic, to give the Israelis a 2-1 lead going into the final day of play.
However, Sela fell to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 loss to Mayer, while Botzer was comprehensively beaten 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 by Berlocq.
Disappointed at the end, Sela said: “I was very tired and didn’t have a lot of energy. There was also a lot of pressure on me because I knew I had to win the match if we were to have a chance to secure the tie.
“It was the same for Leo but he played much better than me and he deserved to win.”
Botzer won one set during his two games and believes he needs to raise his game physically. He said: “For sure I’m disappointed, I had more expectations of myself following my first match on the first day and I need to raise my physical ability. I was able to win one point but then played badly in three others, so there is still room for me to improve my level.
One of the highlights of the tie from Israel’s perspective was the doubles win for Ram and Erlich, and an emotional Ram, who battled through cramp to seal a thrilling win said: “This was certainly the most emotional match of my career, I couldn’t talk at the end of the match as all the memories from past Davis Cup ties came to mind. I was proud to represent the country over the past 15 years.
“I don’t think there is any chance that I can play another five-set match again, but we will see what happens.”