Sela boosts Davis Cup hopes

By Simon Griver, February 26, 2009

Dudi Sela has risen 21 places in the world rankings to 65 after reaching the semi-finals of the Memphis tournament.

Having come through the qualifiers, the Israeli beat three players ranked above him before going down in straight sets to Czech Radek Stepanek (16) in only the second-ever ATP semi of his career.

Sela, 23, maintained his fine form this week in Delray Beach, Florida with a first-round victory over Philipp Petzschner (80) of Germany, who was forced to retire hurt with Sela leading 6-3, 4-1.

“My game has really come together over the past few weeks,” said Sela, “and I’m playing some of my best ever tennis.”

His form is a major boost for Israel’s chances of making the final eight of the Davis Cup World Group next week in Sweden. Israel will now start as clear favourites in Malmo after Sweden’s top player Robin Soderling (22) withdrew from the tie due to injury, leaving the hosts with no players in the top 150.

Doubles specialist Andy Ram is also enjoying a winning streak. Last week, together with Austria’s Julian Knowle, he reached the final in Marseilles before losing to Arnaud Clement and Michel Llodra.

This week he is playing alongside Zimbabwe’s Kevin Ullyett in Dubai. The only cloud on Israel’s Davis Cup horizon is that Ram will be forced to partner Harel Levy in Sweden with Jonathan Erlich still recovering from surgery.

The Swedes, meanwhile, have failed in their attempt to switch the tie to Stockholm. The Swedish Tennis Association are reportedly furious with the Malmo city council for ordering the game to be played behind closed doors due to security considerations, thus robbing the hosts of the encouragement of local fans.

Last updated: 10:57am, February 26 2009