Amir Weintraub won the fifth and final match of Israel’s Davis Cup tie in Japan on Friday to take the country back into the elite World Group of the international tennis competition.
Weintraub, 26, beat Go Soeda 6:3, 7:6, 4:6, 6:3 in the high pressure deciding match, after Israeli veteran Dudi Sela had gone down to Kei Nishikori earlier in the day in a match that stretched for over four hours.
Weintraub was ranked 223 in the world going into the game. With Soeda ranked 53, that was a gap of 170 places, but Weintraub made light of the difference, and shrugged off the Japanese player’s home advantage.
Weintraub, who had won his first match in the tie on Friday, started full of confidence, but Soeda, also a winner on Friday, came back to take the third set. Asked how he had recovered from the setback, Weintraub said he just kept calm and pushed through, and credited the whole team with the victory that takes Israel back into the top level of world tennis.
When he won the fourth set, and with it the match, Weintraub graciously held his hands together and bowed gently to his defeated opponent, and then the entire Israeli team embraced and danced with joy on the court.
Sela had looked like he was going to seal the tie in the day’s earlier match, but Nishikori won 6:3, 3:6, 4:6, 6:4, 7:5, coming back from 2 sets to 1 down.
That brought Japan and Israel to two victories each, to set up Weintraub’s critical contest.
The accomplished Israeli duo of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram had won their doubles match on Saturday to give Israel a 2-1 lead in the World Group Play-off round.
The Israelis beat Ito and Yuichi Sugita in three sets, with a final score of 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.