Israel turns up the heat on Russians

By Simon Griver, March 19, 2009

A major row has erupted in Israel over the venue for July’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Russia.

The Israel Tennis Federation wants to stage the tie at Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena rather than at the Ramat Hasharon tennis centre. The basketball arena can seat nearly 12,000, double the capacity of Ramat Hasharon.

However, Israel’s players are reportedly furious about the proposed change, feeling it would be “professional suicide” to let the Russians, who have four players in the top 30, play in the air-conditioned Nokia Arena rather than the outdoor heat and humidity of Ramat Hasharon where the lower ranked Israelis will have a natural advantage.

Acknowledging that the primary motive of staging the tie in Tel Aviv is to increase revenue, Michael Klein, chief of the Israel Tennis Federation, does not agree that the move will harm Israel’s chances of reaching the semi-finals for the first time. He said, “Thousands more fans in an indoor arena can make much more noise cheering on the team than spectators at an outdoor stadium.”

Shahar Peer gave her best performance in a major event for nine months after reaching the fourth round of the NP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Peer, 21, was eventually beaten 7-5, 6-4 by 11th seed Victoria Azarenka. The last time she reached the fourth round stage was at Wimbledon in June.

The second round win over 12th seed Marion Bartoli, where she came from a set down, was her best victory since beating Dinara Safina at Wimbledon last year. She also bypassed Kateryna Bondarenko (59) and Anna Chakvetadze (24).

“It’s great to be back to playing my best tennis,” said Peer. “I was really hurt by being prevented from playing in Dubai because I was forced to train for two weeks. I need to compete.”

Peer’s interest in Indian Wells remained alive as she reached the semi- finals of the women’s doubles together with Argentina’s Gisela Dulko.

Andy Ram has reached the last four of the mens doubles in Indian Wells.

Last updated: 3:00pm, March 19 2009