RAMAT HASHARON, ISRAEL: Dudi Sela, Israel’s No. 1 singles player, and Vasek Pospisil Canada's No. 2, will start off the weekend's Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off at Ramat Hasharon on Friday with the hope that home advantage will give Israel the thrill of taking and early lead in the tie.
Canada will be hoping to make the World Group for the first time, while Israel, who have been fortunate in gaining another home tie against a team they have never before faced, know that regardless of their opponents they will have a huge boost from the boisterous home supporters, often likened to soccer supporters rather than tennis spectators.
The second of Friday's singles will pit Canada's No. 1, Milos Raonic, who at No. 31 is the highest ranked player in the tie, and Israel's No. 2, Amir Weintraub.
The up-and-coming Raonic has recently returned from a three month layoff after recovering from a hip injury that has sidelined him since Wimbledon but he said after the draw that he felt ready for the challenge.
"I feel good, and proud to represent Canada especially at a big moment like this (with a chance), to make the World Group but it’s also important on a personal level, trying to find my way back," Raonic said.
The tall, Montenegro-born Raonic said he hoped his participation would be the stepping stone he needs to kick-start his promising career.
"I'm trying to find my game, to use this to set up the rest of the year and next year and to make just as much progress as I can," Raonic, 20, said.
Israel have won six of their last eight ties at home including reaching the semifinals in 2009 by beating Russia before losing to Spain.
Both teams have fought through zonal competition to reach this year's World Group play-offs. Canada defeated Mexico and Ecuador in Americas zonal play while Israel beat Poland for the right to get into the play-off tie.
Israeli captain Eyal Ran admitted that while not holding the theoretical advantage over their opponents, playing at home was bound to make a big difference.
"On paper we are not the favourites ... Davis Cup has its own rules and over the last few years we don't take it for granted, but our guys have managed to raise their level for Davis Cup," he said.
Ran added that much national pride was involved in Davis Cup and it always inspired the players to do well.
"They play for the country, they play for the flag, they have the crowd behind them ... they love playing these matches, all these little details put together hopefully will bring them again to play their best tennis and when they do that the ranking really does not matter," Ran said.
Sela, 26 and ranked inside the Top 100 is the singles player whom Israel will rely on most heavily, said he was expecting a tough tussle against 21-year-old Pospisil.
"It's very difficult to start, he is a good player ... but I will have the crowd and the team behind me and I feel good with my tennis, but I'm ready for this match and I will give 100 percent," he said.
Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said there was great excitement for his team to come to the brink of reaching the World Group.
“It’s a very exciting moment for us, we don’t get this opportunity very often and the guys have been very anxious for years to get into the World Group and now we are in a position where it’s close…we’re ready to go…can’t wait till tomorrow to get going,” he said.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Dudi Sela (ISR) v Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
R2: Amir Weintraub (ISR) v Milos Raonic (CAN)
R3: Jonathan Erlich/Andy Ram (ISR) v Daniel Nestor/Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
R4: Dudi Sela (ISR) v Milos Raonic (CAN)
R5: Amir Weintraub (ISR) v Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
Live scores of this tie will be available on the Davis Cup website, and live radio commentary of the World Group semifinals will also be broadcast.
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 15/09/2011
Captain Eyal Ran (ISR) - 15/09/2011
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 15/09/2011
Dudi Sela (ISR) - 15/09/2011