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Sunday July 12, 2009

Israel make Davis Cup history, USA stay alive

PARIS: Israel reached the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time yesterday while 32-time champions USA kept their hopes alive of making the last four.

Israel stunned 2002 and 2006 champions Russia in Tel Aviv.

They took an unassailable 3-0 lead when Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram clinched the crucial point beating Igor Kunitsyn and Marat Safin 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 4-6, 6-4.

Israel, who were playing in their first quarter-final since 1987, will face either defending champions Spain or Germany in September’s semi-finals while Russia suffered their earliest defeat in six years.

“Everybody has dreams but there are some you don’t allow yourself to have and beating Russia 3-0 was just like that... but we have done it,” Erlich said.

Ram added in a courtside interview: “For the first time I have absolutely nothing to say, usually I just can’t stop talking and I started to cry like a little boy.”

The players and the capacity 11,000 crowd endured a rollercoaster of emotions after the Israeli duo let a two-set lead slip through their fingers and allowed the Russians back into the match.

The Israelis appeared to be running out of steam as the match progressed but the crowd roared them on to victory.

“The crowd, the atmosphere here, they made me play four times better than I have been playing recently,” Ram said.

In Porec, meanwhile, world No. 1 pair Bob and Mike Bryan kept the US alive in their quarter-final against Croatia with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 doubles win over Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko.

Croatia still lead the tie 2-1 ahead of today’s reverse singles.

Unlike Friday’s marathon singles rubbers, yesterday’s doubles lasted just 68 minutes with last weekend’s Wimbledon runners-up in total control.

“At the end it was quite an easy victory for us,” said Mike Bryan.

Today, Marin Cilic will tackle James Blake with Ivo Karlovic facing Mardy Fish. The eventual winners will meet either the Czech Republic or 2008 runners-up Argentina in the last four.

The Czechs opened up a 2-1 lead in Prague when Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek saw off Jose Acasuso and Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 after the two teams had shared Friday’s opening singles.

Argentine skipper Tito Vazquez caused a surprise by opting not to choose world No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro to play in the doubles.

“The decision was planned in advance so that the Czech Republic would put all their best players in the doubles,” said Vazquez. — AFP

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