Photo: ITFAsaaf Stokol and Amir Levi (ISR)
Israel upset top seeds Switzerland to reach the men’s final at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup European Qualification event on the penultimate day of play in Antalya, Turkey, as Greece also enjoyed a happy World Tennis Day after ensuring that neither of the top two seeded nations would contest Tuesday’s final.
Meanwhile, Russia beat host nation Turkey to earn a place in the women’s final against top seeds Spain, both semifinals being decided after the respective singles rubbers.
Israel and Greece into men’s final
Third seeds Israel and Switzerland contested the only semifinal to be decided in a doubles rubber after Amir Levi got the Israel team off to a winning start with a 62 64 win over Thomas von Daeniken, the Swiss player ranked almost 100 place higher than Levi.
Daniel Pellegrina forced the decider after defeating Asaaf Stokol 62 64, but Levi and Stokol paired up with great effect to beat Pellegrina and Christophe Vouillamoz 62 64 to put Israel within one match of qualifying for World Group 2 and earning a return to Turkey in May after a 2-1 victory.
"It is a great feeling to reach the final, and to do it on World Tennis Day is even greater,” said Stokol, Israel’s No.1 ranked player. “We have a great, united team and that helped so much, we felt the pressure towards the end of the second set of the deciding doubles but managed to win, we are ready for tomorrow and we hope to finish our week in first place."
Levi was equally complimentary about his team set-up, as well as the organisation of the event.
"A competitive player needs two things to be successful - a united team and being able to focus only on the game and nothing else and this is what our team and the Turkish organisation here is all about - we feel great here and play our best,” said Levi.
Fourth seeds Greece will hope to derail Israel’s aspirations after maintaining their own challenge by defeating second seeds Croatia in two very different single rubbers.
Stefanos Diamantis got Greece off the best possible start after easing to a 60 60 win over Drazen Miksic, but Giorgios Lazaridis met with much stiffer resistance from Anto Joskic before prevailing 75 67(3) 61 to put the tie beyond Croatia, despite the second seeds going on to win the dead doubles rubber comfortably to make the final score 2-1.
Russia will play Lithuania for fifth place after Russia beat Turkey 3-0, while Lithuania defeated Ireland 3-0. But Russia’s first contest in the knockout phase of the competition was nowhere near as the score suggests, with the opening singles rubber and the doubles rubber both being won in three sets.
Spain to meet Russia in women’s final
Fourth seeds Russia were given a good start to their women’s semifinal against second seeds Turkey after the experienced Ludmila Bubnova secured a comfortable 61 61 win over Ebru Bulgurcu.
Busra Un gave the host nation hopes for optimism after winning a tight opening set in her singles rubber against Viktoria Lvova in a tiebreak. However, after going 2-0 down in a third and deciding set Un was forced to retire, handing Russia an unassailable2-0 lead.
Spain’s 3-0 win over third seeds Switzerland started with a tough match for Elena Jacinto, but the Spanish No. 2 eventually sealed a 63 64 win over Simona Rusnak. However, Gabriela Buehler was unable to offer the same resistance as Rusnak and Lola Ochao dominated the second singles rubber to win 60 60.
Margrit Fink and Henriett Koosz dropped just six games between them as Austria claimed a 2-0 win over Ukraine to go forward to a contest against Israel for fifth place. Israel’s Verionica Zvik and Inna Mashkovsky yielded just three games apiece in winning their respective singles rubbers against Denmark.