Bogdanovic defeat puts Rusedski on the spot

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Bates must decide this morning whether to face the 31-year-old Greg Rusedski with the prospect of having to play three matches in three days or show faith in his Davis Cup greenhorns for the doubles.

Jeremy Bates must decide this morning whether to face the 31-year-old Greg Rusedski with the prospect of having to play three matches in three days or show faith in his Davis Cup greenhorns for the doubles.

The British captain may have to rethink his team strategy after the disappointment of Alex Bogdanovic's display yesterday as a singles replacement for Tim Henman, who has retired from the competition.

Although Bogdanovic's defeat by Noam Okun, the Israeli No 1, tied the opening day's singles at 1-1, the way the match unfolded - particularly the way Bogdanovic folded after the most promising of starts in the first set - raised doubts about the British No 2's confidence if asked to play a deciding fifth rubber in tomorrow's reverse singles.

The 20-year-old Bogdanovic put on a brave face after falling to Okun, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2, and said: "I'm ready to play. It's up to the captain. We don't know what's up next in the doubles or the singles. It could only get better for me from here. After all, this was only my second live rubber."

At the outset of this Europe-Africa Zone tie, which will bring the winners the opportunity of a play-off for the World Group, Israel were relying on winning the doubles with their experienced and successful duo, Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, and hoping to glean as much as possible from the singles.

The pressure has switched to the British camp as Bates ponders the wisdom of entrusting the doubles to the 17-year-old, Andrew Murray, and the 24-year-old, David Sherwood, neither of whom have played in the Davis Cup before.

Bates will have to balance the gamble of partnering Rusedski with one of the new boys against the risk of draining his top man ahead of tomorrow's opening singles match against Okun.

Rusedski gave Britain a splendid start, defeating Harel Levy, the Israeli No 2, after an hour and 29 minutes, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.

So the platform was there for Bogdanovic to make a name for himself against Okun, who stands only 20 places above him, at 153, in the world rankings. Bogdanovic then stepped on court and raised optimism by winning the opening three games and going on to lead 5-2. Moreover, Bogdanovic held two set points after Okun double-faulted to 15-40 in the eighth game.

Although Okun saved those opportunities, Bogdanovic netting forehands on both points, the Briton created two more set points while serving for the set at 5-3, 40-15. A shout from the crowd may have put Bogdanovic off as he netted another forehand on the third set point, and a solid return by Okun took care of the fourth. Okun went on to break for 4-5, then held for 5-5, and the players exchanged breaks to force a tie-break, Bogdanovic having saved four set points in the 12th game. Okun won the shoot-out, 7-3, on his fifth set point, and went on to complete a run of 10 of 11 games to lead 5-0 in the second set. Bogdanovic then held for 1-5 and broke for 2-5, only to double-fault to 15-40 before being broken to deuce in the eighth game.

Bogdanovic managed to break in the first game of the third set, only to be broke in the second game. Okun dictated the remainder of the match after breaking for 3-1 and won after two hours and 22 minutes.

At least Rusedski's day went according to plan. His 6-4, 6-3, 6-0 win against Levy, the Israeli No 2, was trouble-free apart from his irate opponent's protests about line calls and a scuffle in the stands between a photographer and a spectator.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," Rusedski said, urging the younger team members to show they believed in themselves by following his lead.

Rusedski won the opening three games in the first and second sets and the first four in the third. Levy's break, in the fifth game, was aided by Rusedski's decision not to play a shot on a lobbed second service return, only to the see the ball land well inside the baseline.

Levy's recovery did not extend beyond the 10th game, in which Rusedski broke to love to take the set after 35 minutes. The noise level increased as Levy ran towards the official's chair, angrily waving his racket to dispute a call that took Rusedski from 15-30 to 30-30 en route to holding serve for 5-2.

Levy continued to protest after the change-over before concentrating on holding serve for 2-5. Rusedski then served out the set after 31 minutes with an emphatic forehand volley. Levy was so discouraged by this time that Rusedski was able to whip through the third set in 21 minutes without conceding a game

He then rejoined the rest of the team in the stands to watch Bogdanovic's torment.

Davis Cup Europe-Africa Zone Group One, second round (Tel Aviv): Israel 1, Britain 1 Singles: G Rusedski (GB) bt H Levy (Isr) 6-4 6-3 6-0; N Okun (Isr) bt A Bogdanovic (GB) 7-6 6-2 6-2.

Today: J Erlich and A Ram v A Murray and D Sherwood. ( BBC1, 1.05pm).

Tomorrow: Okun v Rusedski; Levy v Bogdanovic ( BBC1 6.30pm).