Israel maintains Group I status

Original Article Published on The Jerusalem Post

Israel will play in Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I for an eighth straight year in 2017 after losing 3-0 to Ukraine in Eilat on Saturday.

A 2-1 win over Croatia on Friday wrapped up first place in Pool C for Israel, but Julia Glushko and Shahar Pe’er ran out of steam on Saturday and couldn’t beat the strong Ukrainians to advance to the World Group II playoffs.

Pe’er, ranked No. 189 in the world, lost 6-1, 6-1 to Kateryna Bondarenko (73) before Glushko (126) fell 7-6 (1), 7-6 (2) to Lesia Tsurenko (35).

Shelly Krolitzky and Alona Pushkarevsky lost 6-2, 6-2 to Bondarenko and Olga Savchuk in the meaningless doubles rubber.

“This was a very long week and I woke up feeling completely exhausted,” said Glushko.

“Even though I feel a little sad now, I will try and take the positives from this week.”

Pe’er was also hopeful of building on her performances in Eilat over recent days.

“I end this week feeling much stronger and I’m going all the way in 2016,” said Pe’er. “I will give my all and hopefully the coming weeks will go well. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m a good enough player to be ranked in the top 100.”

Pe’er kicked off the action for Team Israel on Center Court in Saturday afternoon’s match against Ukraine’s Bondarenko.

This time, the hard-hitting Pe’er’s unforced errors, six double faults and generally weak serve made it impossible to recover from a 6-1 deficit in the first set. Pe’er went on to lose the match in 64 minutes.

Glushko faced off against Tsurenko in a hard fought, back and forth, two hours singles marathon. Glushko went up 1-0, and quickly fell behind 4-1 before going up 5-4. Glushko lost in the first set tie-breaker, only winning two points. In a heartbreaker second set, Glushko fell in a tiebreaker despite being up 3-0 and 5-3. Following the last point, Glushko pointed a finger at the chair umpire, said “no, no, no,” threw her racket and appeared teary in protest of what she thought was a bad call.

Belgium joined Ukraine in the playoffs, with Israel and Great Britain finishing in 3rd and 4th place.

Friday’s matches started late due to the long Belgium versus Bulgaria doubles match on Center Court. Pe’er battled back from a 6-3, 1-0 deficit to defeat Tena Lukas in two hours.

Pe’er hit hard from the baseline, moving Lukas from corner to corner and winning many long rallies. In the second match, Glushko went down to Ana Konjuh in straight sets, 7-6, 6-1.

Pe’er brought Glushko back to life in the doubles match versus Konjuh and Darija Jurak.

The Croatian team got off to a 4-1 lead before the Israeli team fought back with five straight games, to win 6-4, 7-6.

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