A Great Sporting Win in Blue and White

The tennis last Thursday, Friday and Sunday was of epic proportion.

Israel's epic Davis Cup victory over Chile in this weekend's Davis Cup tie should be counted as one of the greatest sporting achievements for Israel.

This includes Maccabi Tel Aviv's numerous basketball achievements, Yael Arad's and Gal Friedman's milestone Olympic medals and Israel's World Cup final appearance in 1970.

The tennis last Thursday, Friday and Sunday was of epic proportion. With the Chilean team the favorites, victory was far from assured, but home advantage and a fervent home crowd allowed for only one outcome.

Ramat Hasharon's Canada Stadium was almost full on all three days. The die-hard fans were prepared to stay as long as it took, regardless of Yom Kippur, to give a push to the wonderful performances of Dudi Sela, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich.

For once, the heroics of the team's previous singles mainstay, Noam Okun, were not required because the others simply performed out of their skins.

As a seasoned follower of Israel's Davis Cup team for the past 40 years, I have witnessed many of its highs and lows. This was as good as Israeli men's tennis previous pinnacle, achieved in 1986, when the Davis Cup team, led by Shlomo Glickstein, last reached the elite World Group - the sport's best 16 teams.

That win may have been even harder, an away tie in the sleepy Swiss town of St. Gallen (luckily, Roger Federer was only a toddler then, and his predecessors were mere mortals.) Israel's team consisted of four star campaigners (Glickstein, Amos Mansdorf, Shahar Perkiss and Gilad Bloom), all of them ranked higher than the current crop.

Today's team, and the one that played in the World Group between 1987 and 1994, had super team spirit, but the current group - none of whom are in the world's top-100 in singles - has the added imponderable: A belief in their ability to get results against the odds.

On Friday, Andy and Yoni stretched us all to the limit in a doubles match the likes of which has never been seen before in Israel. It lasted for five long sets and five even longer hours in the steamy heat.

Yesterday's victory by Sela was another five-hour marathon. It was an event which no Israeli sports fan should have missed for anything.

Sela, ranked at 105 in the world, beat world No. 6 Fernando Gonzalez, but there was absolutely no difference between the two. Toward the end, the Israeli was almost toying with his highly-touted opponent. It was an impish display not dissimilar to what Glickstein used to dish out to all who dared tread on his territory. After a long period of lurking in the shadows, interest in Israeli men's tennis has been thrown back into the spotlight. We must hope the September 27 London draw will give local fans another chance to cheer their heroes to even greater victory.