RAMAT HASHARON, ISRAEL: Israel and Canada ended the opening day of their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie level at 1-1 but the result was arrived at completely against the formbook.
It took a stunning performance from unheralded Amir Weintraub, who celebrated his 25th birthday with a stunning victory over world No. 31 Milos Raonic 57 75 63 61 in just under three hours. Raonic, who was short of match practice after a two-month hip injury lay-off started well but then faded in the humid evening air in front of the partisan crowd in Ramat Hasharon.
The opening rubber also went against form when Canada’s Vasek Pospisil kept his composure in a drawn-out affair to beat experienced Israeli No. 1 Dudi Sela 76(4) 67(6) 61 67(2) 63 in a match that lasted some five hours.
“I could not feel any better than I feel now,” Weintraub said after beating Raonic with an almost flawless performance in which he stayed close in the first set and then took advantage of Raonic’s rustiness to reel off the next three sets with some scintillating drives, particularly on his backhand, one of which even earned applause from his opponent.
The dwindling crowd, that stayed at the stadium until past 11 pm were treated to a typical Davis Cup thriller where the rankings mean nothing.
Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau revealed that Raonic had gone to hospital suffering from a virus and had stayed in bed for a couple of days, although he had completely recovered from his hip injury.
“It was important for him to use this match as a reference and go from here … it was a good effort on his part but kudos for Weintraub on his birthday … ultimately Milos is no superhuman,” Laurendeau said.
Asked if he had expected the first day to turn out as it had, Israel captain Eyal Ran said: “It was a classic Davis Cup day … in the first match both players really eager to win the first point for their country … and then Amir came in and managed to play one of his best matches and gave us the point that was so important and I think it will shift the momentum towards us now.”
Inexperienced Pospisil surprises Sela
Pospisil showed the composure and of a player far older than his 21 years to give visiting Canada an early lead in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against Israel at Ramat Hasharon on Friday.
Pospisil was the more consistent against Israeli No. 1 Sela in a topsy-turvy battle where each of the two had the upper hand at some stage during the almost five-hour encounter. The level of play never reached dizzying heights at any stage with both players both displaying their fair share of errors and winning points.
The youthful Pospisil, ranked at 124, 28 places lower than Sela (96) played with calm assuredness through the rough patches and rode out some moments of brilliance by Sela, who was unable to tap into the crowd support at the aptly named Canada Stadium that more often than not gives the Israelis the boost they need when faced with tough situations.
Pospisil took a 4-1 lead in the first set only to see Sela claw his way back before the two battled out a first of three tie breaks that the Canadian won 7-4 with the help of his powerful serve.
Pospisil never lost his cool demeanour
A second set also went to a tie break but this time Sela held on to level the match. While the home crowd of some 3,000 spectators thought that Sela's second-set win would signify the turning point, they were introduced to a bright young prospect in Pospisil who never lost his outwardly cool demeanour.
The Canadian rattled off the third set 6-1 and had an early lead in the fourth only for Sela to again get back into the reckoning. Once again, with the tie break, the hosts were hoping that the momentum had finally swung in Sela's favour and he broke for an early lead in the final set but Pospisil had other ideas and broke back, and then again, to put Sela at arm's length. Pospisil's powerful serve and reliable forehand ensured he stayed in the match but as he got tired and Sela managed to penetrate his backhand side, the Canadian showed that he was also very capable on both sides of the court.
He was elated with his performance, a first-ever victory for him that went the full distance. "It feels incredible, playing Davis Cup is an honour ... to play in a huge match like this against a great player and win my first fifth-set match like this ... it's just an incredible feeling right now," the affable Pospisil said.
Sela said he was beaten by a better player but never felt he managed to get into the match. "He played much better than me today, I think the crowd helped me a lot to stay in the match and I feel disappointed that we are down 1-0," the veteran Israeli said.
The tie resumes on Saturday with a thrilling doubles encounter as home pair Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich take on Daniel Nestor, the world No. 5 in doubles, and Pospisil, who was nominated as his partner.
Ran said he felt confident that the home pair would win.
“In my opinion when (Andy and Yoni) play in Israel, they are always favourites, no matter who is on the other side of the net.”
- Follow this tie: Live Scores
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 16/09/2011
Captain Eyal Ran (ISR) - 16/09/2011
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 16/09/2011
Amir Weintraub (ISR) - 16/09/2011
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) - 16/09/2011
Dudi Sela (ISR) - 16/09/2011