Israel enters Friday’s Fed Cup Europe/ Africa Zone Group I tie against Croatia in Eilat still in contention to advance to the World Group II playoffs after defeating Estonia 3-0 on Thursday.
After falling 2-1 to Turkey in its opening Pool C tie, the blue-and-white bounced back with an emphatic victory, with Shahar Pe’er and Julia Glushko triumphing in their singles rubbers before teaming up to complete the whitewash with a win in the doubles.
Pe’er, ranked No. 189 in the world, easily defeated Valeria Gorlats (1,008) 6-0, 6-3, while Glushko (126) beat Anett Kontaveit (80) 6-3, 6-3. She returned to court less than an hour later and together with Pe’er claimed a 6-3, 6-2 win over Gorlats and Maileen Nuudi.
Israel faces Croatia in its final Pool C tie on Friday.
The group winner will face the winner of Pool A on Saturday for a place in the World Group II playoffs, while the bottom-placed nations will play to determine relegation to Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2017.
Pe’er quickly and smoothly knocked off Gorlats, with the bright sun barely having time to duck behind the grandstand during the 65-minute match. Pe’er made few unforced errors, won 80% of points on first serve, and won 66% of break points – to Goralts’s 16%.
Excessive cheering and chanting of the crowd, which consisted of many school children who seemed to stop by on the way home from school, contributed to the upbeat, festive mood. In somewhat uncharacteristic fashion, a smiling Pe’er signed autographs and posed for selfies.
Glushko battled Kontaveit in a slugfest, coming out on top in straight sets.
Captain Tzipi Obziler used each changeover for coaching and words of encouragement to a worn Glushko.
“She was a little tense, and was under a lot of pressure,” observed Israel coach Sandra Wasserman, describing the hour and eight minute match.
The crowd, which required several warnings from the chair to quiet down, helped both players.
Team Israel has spent long days at the Eilat Tennis Center.
Wednesday’s doubles match against Turkey ended just before 11 p.m.
Among the die-hard fans who stayed until the end to cheer on the Israeli doubles team were a group of 8-14 year old female athletes from Athena, Israel’s project for the promotion of women’s sports in Israel.
Mary Pierce, a former third-ranked Grand Slam champion and recently elected board member of the International Tennis Federation, presented a clinic, shared her personal story, and entertained questions Thursday morning at Eilat’s Isrotel Tennis Club.
The Israel team took a break from an early afternoon practice on Center Court on Thursday to participate in the Fed Cup official Opening Ceremony. Each team filed in to Center Court behind country flags. Players, captains and coaches were all introduced by name.