Israel’s Davis Cup team are facing the possibility of being relegated to Europa/Africa Group II for the first time since 2001 after they were comprehensively beaten at home by Ukraine.
Looking to secure another year in Group I, the Israelis lost all three matches over the first two days of their relegation play-off tie in Ramat Hasharon, meaning they will now face either Austria or Romania to remain in the division.
Friday’s two singles matches saw Dudi Sela and Edan Leshem fail to win a set, with Sela and Yoni Erlich teaming up in the doubles rubber on Saturday, only to lose in five sets.
Israel had won their previous three home ties, but things started off badly when Sela was beaten 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Illya Marchenko, who’s ranked more than 200 places above the Israeli.
Leshem (290) was comprehensively beaten 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 by against Alexandr Dolgopolov (52), and although Sela and Erlich fought back from two sets down in the doubles, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Denys Molchanov won the fifth and deciding set on a tiebreak in a match which lasted just over four hours.
Erlich said: “Losing is part of sport, but we should have played a lot better. This is one of the most disappointing defeats I have ever experienced at home. We were the better team and we should have found a way to win.”
Captain Eyal Ran said: “We thought the tie would still be alive in the final day, the guys gave their all and that is really all we can ask for.”
Also defending Sela, he added: “There has been a lot of responsibility on Dudi’s shoulders for many years, he needs to play day after day. Things didn’t go his way on Friday and he wasn’t able to display his best tennis.
“But he keeps on fighting and would have been ready to play on Sunday if he needed to.”
The tie is set to be concluded on Sunday, with two singles matches, which are now dead rubbers.