Eyal Ran says Israel must focus on their game rather than the conditions when they take on Belgium in a Davis Cup playoff tie, starting today.
Play has been brought forward a day after the Israeli team gained permission to not play on Yom Kippur. The first two singles games will take place today (Thursday) and the doubles match on Friday, with the reverse singles matches completing the tie on Sunday.
Belgium will be represented by Olivier Rochus, Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans, while Israel will call upon Dudi Sela, Amir Weintraub and doubles pairing Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.
While Belgium are ranked a slightly higher 15th to Israel’s 18th, there is little to choose from between the Israeli and Belgian players in terms of their individual rankings. Belgium will also be without their usual number one, David Goffin, who fractured his wrist in a recent training session, and Xavier Malisse (117) - factors which may be of advantage to their opponents.
Dudi Sela (85) - the highest ranked player involved - will look to get the visitors off to the best possible start when he takes on Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon conqueror Steve Darcis in the opening game. Much too will be expected of Israel’s experienced doubles pairing of Erlich and Ram, when they take on unfamiliar partners Darcis and Olivier Rochus.
Indeed there is little to separate the teams and it may be the playing surface which ends up deciding the tie. Playing at home, Belgium will be on their preferred clay, a surface on which Israel do not historically do too well on. In the 23 ties the visitors have played since 2003, only two have been on clay, and Israel have lost both, albeit to Spain and Chile, both of whom are widely regarded as specialists on the surface.
But Israel captain Eyal Ran has played this down, claiming his players are ready for the conditions. Speaking to the Davis Cup website, he added that it was key for the players to “believe in their abilities” and "focus on their game", rather than the conditions.
With the current head to head between the two standing at 2-2, including an away victory for both sides, it will be an extremely closely fought tie. With different advantages playing into the hands of each team, this match should go into the final day with either result possible, and perhaps it may even be decided in the most dramatic of circumstances, in the final rubber.
Written by David Morris