Israeli tennis is always somehow forgotten, neglected. Lacking pompous declarations from media-seeking association chairmen, or scandals over who flies business and who first class, and without the close watch of journalists, Israel’s Davis Cup team has become an anomaly of sorts: It almost always succeeds in springing pleasant surprises.
Yes, in the mayhem filled with Guttmans and Luzons, Casspis and Ohayon's – those who are always hogging the sports headlines – the Davis team is an island of sanity, a constant supplier of unique moments and experiences. It seems that watching the squad, Israelis who dream of the World Cup and believe they are a basketball superpower really do manage to overachieve.
In four of the last six years, Eyal Ran, Dudi Sela, Andy Ram, Jonathan Erlich, Amir Weintraub, Harel Levy and Noam Okun performed miracles, no less. They happened in Ramat Hasharon and Sweden, in Yad Eliyahu and Japan. Somehow, despite being obviously outclassed before the games begin – reflected in the world rankings – the Davis team managed to cling to its place in the top group.
These players faced superior rivals, from Fernando Gonzalez to Mikhail Youzhny, who inevitably inspired amazing performances. Players who throughout the years were only fleetingly mentioned in the press - when the Luzons of the world inexplicably fell silent for once – these very same players succeeded, time and time again, to remain among the top 16 teams in the world. Nadal and Spain, Del Potro and Argentina, Djokovic and Serbia, Sela and Israel. This is an extraordinary achievement, rarely receiving the credit it deserves.
The natural instinct is to add Weintraub and Sela to the failures associated with Casspi and Eliyahu, Shechter and Zehavi; to point to the Davis team as yet another example of how Israeli sports torments us. But that would be a huge mistake. One can be disappointed by the loss to Belgium and wonder when we will be back in World Group. But the Davis team should be spared the criticism earned by national basketball and soccer teams. Tennis' only sin was to spoil us with achievements beyond our imagination. Sadly, that cannot be said about other Israeli sports.
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