Israel's mainstay doubles duo Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich gave Israel a vital 2-1 lead over Austria by beating Jurgen Melzer and Alexander Peya 76(2) 64 64 in Friday's doubles rubber in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off in Tel Aviv.
The Austrians bravely fought point for point in the opening set and a half with the home duo but the experience of the “Andi-Yoni” pairing as it has fondly become known to the home fans was consistently the better team throughout the encounter.
Much depended on the opening set in which both Erlich and Melzer lost their first service games but after that each side played well and held their serve before the set was decided on a tie break which the Israelis won for the loss of two points.
Austrians squander second set advantage
The Austrians raced into a 4-1 lead in the second set as Ram was broken early on but suddenly at 4-1 the Austrians, Melzer in particular appeared to tire as the Israelis moved into overdrive as everything appeared to flow their way. Erlich used his quick hands in close quarters at the net and Ram turned on the power to storm back and win the next five games and the set.
The Israelis appeared to be cruising to victory in the third set and took an early break with Melzer appearing to tire rapidly. The home duo wrapped up the match with Ram serving out to send the fans home happy as they contemplate a day of rest during the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur which begins at sundown on Friday.
The tie will resume on Sunday with the reverse singles as Israeli No. 1 Dudi Sela meets counterpart Melzer followed by a clash between the two nominated No. 2 singles players, Harel Levy for Israel and Andreas Haider-Maurer for Austria.
Ram expects crowd support
Ram grabbed the arena microphone after the Israelis won and said to the crowd: “We did it quickly for you so that you could get home for Yom Kippur but on Sunday we expect to see you all here supporting us, you are a fantastic crowd.”
Erlich said the players had managed to put on a very solid performance and notch their 13th win in the competition. “We had control for almost the entire match, it was a really good performance by us, we did what we needed to do to win,” he said.
“We didn’t convert our chances, we had a break in the first set but we didn’t manage to put it together,” Melzer said afterwards, and Peya added: “It was very disappointing to lose such a crucial doubles.”
Austrian captain Gilbert Schaller admitted that much of the pressure was on Melzer’s shoulders but with the tie possibly being concluded in the closing rubber, he had still to decide who he should nominate to try to clinch the tie.
“It’s a difficult decision for me, we have three options but first of all we have to get to 2-all, the pressure on Jurgen is also high… but who is going to play the last match is not yet decided,” Schaller said.