Tennis / Russians Rusty for Tie With Israel

More than the Israeli heat or fans, being out of shape most bothers Russia's Davis Cup team, which is preparing for its quarterfinal this weekend in Tel Aviv. "Not one of us is in shape, save for Igor (Andreev) - there's nothing to hide about it," admitted team member Marat Safin, who expects to win in likely his final appearance before an Israeli crowd.

"I hope we'll be okay," he said. "I gather it will be easy for both teams to play in a closed arena. Neither side will have any advantage. Our situation and Israel's home court advantage, including the way (Dudi) Sela is playing, could make it an interesting tie. I hope we'll prevail."

Regarding the Israeli crowd, Andreev said yesterday, "We have played away before, like in Argentina and Chile. I don't think we'll see anything exceptional here in Israel. I did better than expected in Wimbledon, and hope to keep it up."

A big question mark concerning the Russians revolves around Dmitry Tursunov, who is ranked 22nd in the world. Tursunov injured his leg before Wimbledon and may be able to practice before the tie with Israel. The options of replacing him before team captain Shamil Tarpishchev are world number 39 Igor Kunitsyn and 88th-ranked Teimuraz Gabashvili. However, adding them would be problematic for Russia's prospects because Kunitsyn lost to Dudi Sela in Den Bosch this year and Gabashvili has no experience at the Davis Cup level.

Russia is expected to hold its opening practice in the Yad Eliahu stadium this morning.