Ofra Friedman, media relations manager, and her team at the Israel Tennis Association haven’t been sleeping much these days.
They have been working day and night to bring the Fed Cup tennis event to Eilat.
In 2016, 101 nations entered Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, making it the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport.
Next week, from February 3-6, Israel will serve as host to Europe/Africa Zone Group I matches. Top players from 14 countries will compete at Eilat’s Municipal Tennis Club. Each Group is initially split into round-robin pools of either three or four countries.
Israel is in a pool with Croatia, Estonia and Turkey. Other nations participating in the fourday event in Eilat include Great Britain, South Africa, Hungry and Belgium. Two nations will advance to the World Group II play-offs.
Israel last played in the World Group II playoffs in 2009. Two nations will be relegated to Europe/ Africa Zone Group II in 2017.
Eilat has hosted the tournament four times – 1995, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Fed Cup returns to Israel after two years in Hungary.
Friedman, who played college tennis at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, is proud of the International Tennis Federation’s support.
“This means the ITF really thinks we can handle it well. After a two year break, the Fed Cup returns to Israel. We are hosting it again and we are happy about it.”
“It is a good chance for the Israeli fans to come out and watch a lot of top 100 players in four days of great tennis.”
Bringing a major international tennis event to sunny Eilat is a major undertaking.
The ITA team is responsible for such logistics as supervising player registration, hotel accommodations, credentialing for players, guests and media, VIPs, special requests, organizing press conferences, dealing with ticketing and marketing, liaison work with the Eilat municipality and such logistics as overseeing the giant screen – and the painting of the courts.
High-profile guests likely to be in attendance include Mary Pierce, former No. 3 player in the world who was recently appointed to the ITF’s Board of Directors and Iva Majoli, former No. 4 in the world and captain of the team from Croatia.
The already busy ITA team sometimes need to deal with unexpected issues which arise elsewhere in the tennis world.
Last Thursday morning, Friedman had to turn her attention to an event taking place that day in Australia. Israeli Dudi Sela, 87th ranked, was in the middle of an unexpected comeback against Fernando Verdasco of Spain, ranked 45th, in the second round of the Australian Open.
Verdasco had defeated Rafael Nadal in singles two days earlier, and had defeated Israeli Yoni Erlich and doubles partner Colin Fleming of Great Britain on Wednesday.
Sela went on to defeat Verdasco 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6.
“The media was killing me,” Friedman reports with a combination of pride and excitement for Israel tennis, “Everybody was talking about it. Everyone went crazy over the match.”
Sela was ultimately knocked out by 74th-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia in the third round, but Israeli tennis has plenty to look forward to just around the corner.