EILAT, ISRAEL: Pre-event festive dinners are always a glamorous affair, with players, team members and officials discarding their ubiquitous track suits and trainers as the ladies don their best frocks and the gents button up their collars and put on a tie, but the morning after was decidedly dull, as heavy rain swept usually sunny Eilat and delayed the start of play in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I event.
Israel's Red Sea resort city is hosting this Fed Cup event for the third straight year and there were many familiar faces and a few new ones putting in an appearance at the traditional dinner.
Rookies were introduced, and the more extrovert even put on a show to give added brilliance to a sparkling evening. Basak Eraydin of Turkey belly danced and Nicole Rottmann of Austria did the rap from Rock me Amadeus. Tournament referee Roberto Ranieri celebrated his 39th birthday with a big cake and was treated to 30 lifts on his chair, a ceremony usually reserved for youngsters a tenth his age.
But the star of the evening was unquestionably Yona Yair, the "Swiss Army knife" of tennis in Israel and beyond: organiser extraordinaire, with a solution for every problem and an answer to every team captain's demand and every player's query.
Israel Tennis Association CEO Shlomo Glickstein and new Israeli team captain Amos Mansdorf paid tribute to Yona, who has overseen tournaments in the country for over three decades. She was presented with a canvas print of photos of her at many events and with many players and officials over the years.
The applause for Yona was loudest and longest, but it could not keep the storm clouds away and Wednesday's scheduled start of play had to be postponed by a prolonged thunder storm - rare for a city which usually has more than 360 days of sunshine per year. The airport, which bisects the city, had to close as torrents of flood water had everybody talking about the weather - something that hardly ever happens in this arid part of the world.
Due to the bad weather the morning session was forced off completely and that half of the draw, containing Pools B and D, will now be extended to Sunday. A full updated schedule can be found via the link below.
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Click the link below for more information about Europe/Africa Zone Group I, including individual results from each tie.
- Europe/Africa Zone Group I