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Articles > Israel-Sweden Davis Cup Play: Down to the Wire

The Jews of Shushan knew light and gladness, joy and exaltation (Esther 8:16)

Malmo, Sweden --- It was March Madness – after a fashion.

After the second day of Davis Cup play, Israel trailed host Sweden 2 matches to 3.

On the last day of play (3/8/09) Israel’s big gun, Dudi Sela, won his second match of the series, but it took him five sets to do it, after two of the three previous matches also went down to the fifth set.

Now Israel was tied, and Har’el Levy, who had lost on Friday, faced Andreas Vinciguerra. Whoever won would present their team with a ticket to Davis Cup quarter-final play.

Levy took the first set 6-4, but lost the next set 4-6. He took the third set again by a score of 6-4, but Vinciguerra came back to take the next set 6-3, tying the match up two sets apiece.

In the fifth and deciding set, each player held serve through the first 12 games, until finally Vinciguerra dropped serve and Levy won the set 8-6.

After the match, Levy was hoisted on the shoulders of his very happy teammates. This is only the second time that Israel has made it to the quarter finals, having done so back in 1987. After his victory, Levy noted that the decision by the local organizers to close the match to fans deprived the host of the raucous crowds that typically help to cheer the home team on. Andy Ram expressed his own criticism of the decision, fearing that it might set in motion a precedent for future matches elsewhere.

On Saturday, 100 rock throwing protesters were apprehended by police among the many that had gathered in an attempt to storm the arena and disrupt the games.

Retired Israeli tennis great Amos Mansdorf, who had been coaching Levy in recent months, noted that “Har’el feels, incorrectly, that he is at the end stage of his playing days. I wanted him to believe in himself. I thought he should have won his first match as well, but a combination of bad luck and lack of self-confidence got in the way. When he played with self-confidence this time his game was better than Vinciguerra’s, and the match could have gone either way. This is a great moment for Israeli tennis!”

Mansdorf also had high words of praise for team captain Eyal Ran. “It’s not easy to keep things under control when four of the five matches go into five sets, particularly in an atmosphere marked by politics and tension.”

Former Davis Cup captain Shlomo Glickstein commented, “This is an awesome win, and a great achievement for Har’el. And Dudi was huge, proving himself to be a superior Davis Cup player. He’s the real deal.”

Like the others, Glickstein, disparaged the decision to play in an empty arena. “It was an embarrassment to thinking people, but in the end, it hurt them more than it hurt us.” Earlier in Davis Cup first round play, Israel beat Sweden at home, thus handing them, as it were, a “double bagel.” Israel will face Russia in the summer. “Anything is possible,” noted Mansdorf. “Hopefully Yoni Erlich will be healthy by then, and after all, it shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to win 3 matches out of 5.”

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