Austria’s Jurgen Melzer is set for a tough weekend in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off in Israel this weekend. World No. 13 Melzer will have to shoulder most of the visitors’ expectations against a very strong home line-up.
Israel’s No. 1 singles player Dudi Sela gets proceedings underway in Tel Aviv against Austrian No. 2 nominated player Andreas Haider-Maurer on Thursday.
The event has been scheduled to start a day early with a break on Saturday for the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, when Israel shuts down and the majority of the country’s Jewish population observes a 24-hour fast. The action will resume again on Sunday in the reverse singles. The doubles is also scheduled to be played early on Friday to allow everybody to get home in time for the beginning of the holiday at sundown.
Israel’s mainstay quartet is completed by Harel Levy, who will face Melzer in Thursday’s second singles rubber, and proven doubles duo Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich.
The visitors’ line-up is completed by Alexander Peya and Martin Fischer. Austria is without the experienced Julian Knowle, whose doubles expertise alongside Melzer could have been a vital cog for the visitors in what is certain to be a close-run affair.
Israel chose to return to the 11,000-seat indoor Nokia Arena, a venue mainly used for basketball but it served the Israelis well when they beat Russia 4-1 in last year’s competition to reach the semifinals – their best-ever Davis Cup showing.
There has been some speculation that using the indoor venue, a less familiar arena for Israel’s players than the oft-used Canada Stadium at Ramat Hasharon north of Tel Aviv, plays into the visitors hands. While the Nokia Stadium can seat twice as many spectators, the airconditioning takes the heat and humidity out of the equation.
However, the Israeli players proved this not to be the case in their demolition of the Russians, and the comfortable arena has instantly become a very popular new home, both for the players and the spectators, who will undoubtedly play a major part in the tie.
Israeli team captain Eyal Ran is certainly looking forward to his team’s return there: “The whole team is excited, we feel that a lot of people are interested in the game, I think there will be a good amount of people coming to cheer for us.
“I believe in these guys. Three years ago they brought us to the World Group and last year to the semifinals. We really want to stay in the World Group, we really enjoy playing at this level and in this atmosphere and we will do everything we can to stay there,” he said.
Austrian captain Gilbert Schaller said that he expected Saturday’s rest day to give his team an advantage as Melzer, ranked 13th in the world in singles and fifth in doubles, would almost certainly be called on to bear most of the burden for the visitors.
Schaller said: “I believe honestly that it will be an advantage for us because for Austria Jurgen Melzer is the only player who will have to play on all three days so a day off for him is probably better than for any of the Israelis.”
Since their first Davis Cup meeting in the competition in 1963, Israel and Austria have met five times previously with the Austrians holding a 3-2 advantage. The coming weekend’s tie, which could very well be settled in the final rubber sees the teams battle for the prize of playing among the world’s top 16 nations in the 2011 competition.
The full draw is listed below:
Dudi Sela (ISR) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
Harel Levy (ISR) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
Jonathan Erlich / Andy Ram (ISR) v Jurgen Melzer / Alexander Peya (AUT)
Dudi Sela (ISR) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
Harel Levy (ISR) v Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)