Levy and Sela win to stun Russia in Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:10pm EDT

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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel stunned heavily favored Russia on Friday, opening up a 2-0 lead in their Davis Cup world group quarter-final in Tel Aviv.

One more win in the tie, which ends on Sunday, will mean Israel has for the first time clinched a place in the semi-final of a major sporting event.

Russia won the trophy in both 2002 and 2006.

Israel's No. 2 player Harel Levy, the world number 210, defied the rankings by playing some of his best tennis for years to beat Russian No. 1 Igor Andreev, the world No. 24, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the opening rubber.

Israeli No. 1 Dudi Sela followed up by beating Russian No. 2 Mikhail Youzhny 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5.

Sela, the world No. 33, at this year's Wimbledon was the first Israeli to reach the last-16 of a Grand Slam in 17 years.

Israeli captain Eyal Ran said his players were like two fighter jets on court.

"I felt as if I had two F-16s out there today, they played amazingly well," he said.

Russia's players gave credit to their hosts for playing out of their skins.

"This is a bit of a surprise for everybody, we knew that the Israeli guys can play well, but Harel was excellent today and it was a bit of a sensational result in the first match. Dudi also had a good Wimbledon and he looks good," Youzhny said.

The 10,500 spectators at the indoor Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv was the largest attendance for a tennis match in Israel.

The tie resumes on Saturday with Israel hoping to clinch the tie with doubles duo Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich against Marat Safin and either Youzhny or doubles specialist Igor Kunitsyn.

The tie concludes with Sunday's reverse singles rubbers.

(Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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