Incredible day for Israel
Israel stands on the brink of a first-ever Davis Cup semifinal after Harel Levy and Dudi Sela delighted the home crowd with victories in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal against Russia in Tel Aviv on Friday.
While Sela's 36 61 60 75 victory over Mikhail Youzhny was not entirely unexpected given that the Israeli is currently ranked above the Russian, Levy overturned a gap of more than 200 ranking places in defeating Igor Andreev in the first rubber.
Levy, world ranked at 210, gave the hosts a surprise lead, beating Andreev 64 62 46 62.
Levy's sweet hitting from the baseline, mainly with his forehand and the occasional rush to the net for some excellent volleying stunned Andreev, ranked almost 200 places above him. Indeed, the 30-year-old Levy attained a level of play not seen from him since he held his top ranking of 30 in 2001 and he appeared unable to put a foot wrong for two entire sets.
At the same time, 25-year-old Andreev looked surprised as Levy consistently ran him ragged across the baseline. The Israeli No. 2 came out in blazing form and with powerful hitting on both flanks mainly from the back of the court, he managed to break Andreev in the seventh game of the first set that was a major confidence booster for a player whom most pundits did not give a chance of winning before the start of play.
He then rode the wave of success for two more breaks in the second set to edge closer to an unlikely victory that thrilled the capacity home crowd of some 11,000 spectators at Tel Aviv's indoor Nokia arena. Andreev regained some respectability in the third set as Levy appeared to tire, but a toilet break helped the Israeli rekindle his amazing form and he stormed to victory in two hours, 51 minutes.
Levy's ranking took a dramatic dip after he suffered a potentially career-ending hip injury in 2001 and he has never managed to consistently regain the same form that took him to 30 in the world in June of the same year, but Friday's win showed that Levy was still capable of producing a top-notch performance far above his ranking.
Russia has not come back from 0-2 down since its 1995 semifinal victory against Germany.