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Saturday, July 11, 2009
Israel attains historic semifinal berth

ESPN.com news services

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israel reached its first Davis Cup semifinal by taking an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Russia with a five-set win in the doubles match.

Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich defeated Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 6-4 Saturday to decide the best-of-five series. Israel will take on either Germany at home or Spain away in September.

Ehrlich, who teamed with Ram to win the 2008 Australian Open doubles champions, said the win was the biggest moment of their careers.

"This is something I will cherish for all of my life," said Ehrlich, who recently came back from a 10-month injury layoff.

Israel had taken a surprising 2-0 lead after Harvel Levy beat Igor Andreev and Dudi Sela rallied to defeat Mikhai Youzhny in Friday's singles matches.

Russia has won the Davis Cup twice -- in 2002 and 2007 -- and made it to the semifinals in each of the past five years.

Israel had reached the quarterfinals once before, losing to India in New Delhi in 1987.

Safin was making his final Davis Cup appearance before retiring at the end of the season.

"At the end of the day we were playing great tennis," Safin said. "We were fighting and we came back until the end of the match. They were more experienced, I guess."

Looking back on his Davis Cup career, he said: "We had some great matches in the past. It's very nice to defend the colors of your country. It's great to be part of the team."

Berdych-Stepanek give Czechs the edge

The Czech Republic took a 2-1 lead over Argentina in their Davis Cup quarterfinal series after winning the doubles.

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek defeated Jose Acasuso and Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 on the indoor hard court at CEZ Arena on Saturday in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

The victory puts the Czechs one win away from the semifinals, a stage they haven't reached since 1996. Argentina, last year's Davis Cup runner-up, needs to sweep Sunday's reverse singles to advance to its sixth semis in the past eight years.

The reverse singles will tentatively pit Berdych against Juan Martin Del Potro and Ivo Minar against Juan Monaco.

The winner of the best-of-five series will face the United States or Croatia in the Sept. 18-20 semifinals.

Spain managing without Nadal

Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez beat Nicolas Kiefer and Mischa Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (6), 6-3 give defending champion Spain a 2-1 lead over Germany in Marabella, Spain.

Spain, which is playing without Rafael Nadal for the second time in three series because he has knee tendinitis, can wrap up its 16th straight home win Sunday when Tommy Robredo is scheduled to face Andreas Beck in reverse singles.

Verdasco, who beat Beck in Friday's opening singles, is set to play Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final singles match on the outdoor clay at the Puerto Banus bullring.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.