ANTWERP, BELGIUM:Steve Darcis, back from injury after a memorable win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon earlier this year, will be first on court for Belgium in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie in Antwerp against visitors' No. 1 Dudi Sela when play gets under way on Thursday.
Ruben Bemelmans, who has slotted into Belgium's No. 1 spot following a freak injury to nominated No. 1 David Goffin, will then meet Israeli No. 2 Amir Weintraub.
Goffin broke his left wrist during practice on Tuesday at the very end of training. He was undergoing an operation on Wednesday to repair the fracture, Belgian team captain Johan Van Herck said, and was hoping to be able to cheer on his teammates from the sidelines during the tie.
Play has been brought forward by a day due to the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur on Saturday, during which the Israelis have asked not to play.
The tie looks set to be a very closely contested affair, as the two teams have players of a similar ranking and as so often is the case in Davis Cup play, it appears very difficult to predict the outcome, even though Belgium are playing on their preferred surface, clay, which conversely, is Israel's least favourite type of court.
"It's a big loss," van Herck said of Goffin's injury, but he added that he was confident the other players would be able to get over the shock of their teammate's injury and would be able to deliver the vital win for the hosts.
"I'm confident that the team we have will play well and get the victory ... once we got over the shock, I believe that it can give us added motivation," van Herck added.
He said that the indoor clay court at Antwerp's Lotto Arena was "the best we have ever had".
Israeli captain Eyal Ran said his players were well prepared and ready for the difficult challenge and that the conditions were also to their liking.
"The matches are going to be close, therefore attention to detail will be very important. I think that the most important thing for us is we believe in our abilities," Ran added that Israel were used to being in a similar position and that the conditions were not the main part of the challenge ahead.
"We just need to focus on our game, the conditions or the surface really don't matter," he added.
Although he said that the arena is "beautiful, the speed and bounce and we have had enough time to prepare for the tie".
Belgium drafted Germain Gigounon as a replacement for Goffin, although he did not feature on the draw board on Wednesday.
Friday's doubles will be contested by Darcis and veteran Belgian Olivier Rochus who will clash with the experienced Israeli doubles specialists Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich and when the players return from their day's break on Saturday, Sela and Bemelmans, the two No. 1s are set for the first rubber, followed by Darcis against Weintraub.
In 23 ties played since 2003, Israel have played only two on clay but have lost both to far more dominant sides on that surface, Chile and Spain. But Israel's clay court record since the World Group system was introduced in 1981, shows a number of victories on the slow surface against teams of similar rating.
Both in ranking and record in the competition, Belgium and Israel are very evenly matched and in their four meetings since 1982, each has won once at home and once away, alternating between clay in Belgium and Israel’s hard courts. This will be the first meeting indoors, however.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Steve Darcis (BEL) v Dudi Sela (ISR)
R2: Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Amir Weintraub (ISR)
R3: Steve Darcis/Olivier Rochus (BEL) v Jonathan Erlich/Andy Ram (ISR)
R4: Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Dudi Sela (ISR)
R5: Steve Darcis (BEL) v Amir Weintraub (ISR)
Steve Darcis (BEL) - 11/09/2013
Captain Eyal Ran (ISR) - 11/09/2013
Dudi Sela (ISR) - 11/09/2013
Captain Johan van Herck (BEL) - 11/09/2013