Argentina rallies past Israel in Davis Cup playoff

by: AP | September 14, 2014

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Carlos Berlocq clinched Argentina's 3-2 win over Israel then ripped off his shirt to celebrate. (AP Photo)

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—Favored Argentina won both matches on Sunday, rallying to defeat Israel 3-2 in a Davis Cup World Group playoff tie.

Israel led 2-1 after Saturday's doubles, making this the first time in 24 years that Argentina has rallied to win a Davis Cup tie. In fact, Argentina has rallied to win just twice previously in its 91-year history in the competition, beating Brazil in 1976 and Germany in 1990.

Argentina's Carlos Berlocq beat Israel's Bar Botzer, 6-2, 6-3, 6-0, in Sunday's decisive match. Berlocq, 31, is ranked 67th. Botzer, 20, making his Davis Cup debut this weekend, is ranked No. 776.

After the match, Berlocq celebrated by ripping his sweaty shirt and handing it to an Argentine fan at the Sunrise Tennis Center.

''That's a beautiful tradition,'' Berlocq said of ripping his shirt after big wins. ''I didn't want this to be an exception.''

Earlier Sunday, Argentina's Leonardo Mayer defeated Israel's Dudi Sela 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in a battle of the nations' top players.

Argentina, ranked fourth, will now have a chance to win the 2015 Davis Cup, advancing to the 16-team World Group.

Israel, ranked 19th, cannot win next year's Cup and will be relegated to World Group II.

Neither team has won the Davis Cup. Argentina has finished second on four occasions, most recently in 2011.

Israel, which is now 0-3 against Argentina all-time, had its best finish in 2009, advancing to the semifinals.

Mayer, ranked 25th, was dominant against the 84th-ranked Sela, winning every service game. He served out the match by getting three aces and one service winner in the final game.

Sela, who praised Mayer, said he lacked energy and felt the pressure of being Israel's best hope to win the Davis Cup.

''People ask me why I don't have a better ranking, and this is the reason,'' Sela said. ''One day I play very well. Two days later, I play like No. 400.''

Mayer said he played his best match of the year on Sunday and was a bit annoyed when some of Sela's comments were relayed to him. Of particular annoyance was a comment that Sela made that virtually anyone — he referenced retired player Mariano Zabaleta — could have beaten him the way he played on Sunday.

''I beat him with a stick,'' Mayer said in Spanish. ''It's better to admit that than to lie.''

This weekend's tie was originally set to be played in Israel. But it was moved from Tel Aviv due to safety concerns in the region.

''For sure,'' Botzer said when asked if playing in Israel might have made a difference in the tie. ''The crowd is our X factor when we play at home.

''Here, the Argentina fans were really good. They pushed their team. I wish we could have played at home.''
 

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