The Slovenia Times

Davis Cup: Slovenia Come Up Short Against Israel



Battling nagging injuries to key players and the absence of its top-ranked player, Slovenia dropped a rain-delayed doubles rubber and then the first reverse singles rubber on Sunday to fall to a 1-3 defeat in the second round of the top European and African group.

It was a painful loss for the home team in a winnable match against Israel on the clay of ŠRC Marina courts in Portorož.

Injury problems would prove decisive for Slovenia, who were already without their top-ranked player Aljaž Bedene (113th), against the fired up visitors.

The teams had split the opening singles rubbers on Friday as both countries' leading players were upset.

For Slovenia, the five set loss by Blaž Kavčič (121st), who fought to play for the team three weeks removed from surgery on a pinched nerve in his foot, to the lesser-ranked Amir Weintraub (198th) was doubly painful.

The gruelling rubber took a toll on Kavčič's sore foot, forcing him to sit out the rest of the tie.

As a result, Slovenia had to call up Grega Žemlja for back-to-back action, in his return to singles action following a six-month layoff due to illness.

After Saturday's action was washed out by showers, Žemlja teamed up with Blaž Rola (118th), who had scored a straight-sets upset of Dudi Sela (69th) in the singles, for a decisive rubber against the Israeli doubles specialists Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.

In a real thriller in which the first three sets were decided by a only a few points, the Slovenians kept touch with their veteran opponents. Experience would prevail, however, as the Israelis closed out the rubber in the fourth set, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (5) and 6-3.

All of Slovenia's hopes now rested on Žemlja, who had to return to the court to face Sela after a two-hour break.

Showing fight in the first two sets - he pulled out the second set in a tie-break - Žemlja finally ran out of gas thereafter. Even two medical timeouts failed to help, as the Slovenian ace fell to the Israeli No. 1 in four sets, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 0-6 and 2-6.

Slovenia remain in the first European and African group for another year, whereas Israel move on to face one of the losing teams from the first round of the World Group for a shot at entering the elite of world tennis.


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