A rare rain storm played havoc as action was about to begin in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I tournament in Eilat on Wednesday but by early afternoon, the Israeli resort city on the shores of the Red Sea had practically put any signs of the wet weather behind it and play got under way.
Nevertheless, the rain has forced play to continue into a fifth day, with the early round of ties, consisting of teams in groups B (Great Britain, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Portugal and Hungary) and Group D (Slovenia, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Bulgaria) all being pushed back by a day. Their ties will be completed on Sunday.
Top Group C nation Poland, led by world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, opened with a tough tie against Romania and did not have proceedings all their own way.
Agnieszka ensured a 2-0 lead in the tie by defeating Sorana Cirstea 63 64 after her younger sister, Urszula, overcame a close first set against Cristina Dinu to win 75 62. The Romanians then pulled back to win the doubles when Cirstea teamed up with Raluca Olaru to defeat Paula Cania and Alicja Rosolska 76(10) 62 in an entertaining tussle.
Host nation Israel, also in Group C, got most of the attention from the crowd, who made sure to wrap up with warm clothes for play as the light faded, and they got their money's worth in the tie against Turkey, possibly a tussle that will determine which of the two teams fights to avoid relegation.
It fell to the experience of Israel's two singles players with added home support to deliver the win as first , Julia Glushko defeated opposing No. 2 Pemra Ozgen 64 64, including a short floodlight failure on the stadium court. Glushko started well but was pushed all the way in the first set. She went 3-0 down in the second set but took five games in a row to secure the decisive lead which gave her victory.
Shahar Peer was then pushed all the way by Kagla Buyukacay before she edged it 16 61 76(3) in a topsy-turvy encounter.
“I could see she (Buyukacay) was a little bit tight and I pushed myself to go for it in the important points. I can’t say I played my best tennis, but it’s most important that we won as a team today,” Peer said.
New captain Amos Mansdorf, realising that he needed to save his players for Thursday's tie against Romania, put out the inexperienced pairing of Valeria Patiuk and Keren Shlomo in the doubles and they well beaten by Turkey's Basak Eraydin and Ipek Soylu 62 61.
“Mainly I wanted to save Shahar, who is still a bit jet lagged after returning from Thailand, I want to keep her healthy. We are going for all tomorrow, it is a very important game and I think that if we win we will be in good shape,” Mansdorf said.
In Group A, Belarus had the best run of all the teams in action by defeating Georgia 3-0 and looked strong despite missing their star, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
Aliaksandra Sasnovioch beat Margalita Chakhnashvili 62 63, Ilona Kremen then had a tougher task and split the first two sets with Sofia Shapatava, and came through when Shapatava had to retire injured in the decider, the winning score for the Belarussian was 63 67(5) 30.
Sasnovioch then teamed up with Lidziya Marozava to beat Sofia Kvatsabaia and Ekaterine Gorgodze 62 63.
In the second Group A tie, Croatia gained an important 2-1 win over Austria, a result that could help them vie for a top place finish in the round robin ahead of the play-offs on Saturday.
Groups B and D will begin proceedings on Thursday when in Group B Britain meet Bosnia/Herzegovina and Portugal play Hungary. The two Group D ties will see Slovenia face Luxembourg and the Netherlands play Bulgaria.
In the evening session in Group A, Belarus play Austria and Croatia meet Georgia, while in Group C, the matchups are between Romania and Israel and Poland and Turkey.
Captain Amos Mansdorf (ISR)