Israel got what it wanted when it was drawn at home in the Davis Cup World Group playoff yesterday, but in order to join the elite nations of tennis it will have to overcome Chile, which on paper at least is the clear favorite.
Israel is scheduled to host the encounter from September 21-23, but as Yom Kippur falls on Saturday the 22nd it will ask to move up the opening singles matches to Thursday the 20th and the doubles to Friday, with the reverse singles played as scheduled on the Sunday.
Chile is led by World No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez, a former No. 1 at the junior level and the winner of the 1998 Junior French Open. He took the bronze medal in the singles at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the gold in the doubles together with Chile's No. 2 player Nicolas Massu, who claimed the gold in the singles.
Gonzalez broke into the top ten in the world after reaching the finals of the Madrid Masters in 2006, where he lost to World No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland. This season, Gonzalez has scored wins over Leyton Hewitt, James Blake and Rafael Nadal. He reached the final of the Australian Open where he was again defeated by Federer.
Massu is currently ranked 55 in the world, but at his peak in 2004 he was ranked ninth. At the Athens Olympics he claimed his two gold medals within 24 hours. His five-set doubles final with Gonzalez against Germany's Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuttler ended at 2:40 A.M. and 7:30 P.M. After a sleepless night, he went out on to the court to down Mardy Fish of the United States after another five-set epic.
Massu is the son of a Jewish mother and a Palestinian father and appeared in the Maccabiah as a teenager.
Completing the Chile team are Adrian Garcia, ranked 155 in the world, and Paul Capdeville, ranked 150.
Chile, which lost to Russia in the previous round, reached the World Group quarterfinals in 1982 and 2006. Its best Davis Cup performance came in 1976, reaching the final but losing to Italy 4-1 in Santiago.
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