Jewish Players Stop In New Haven On The Way To The U.S. Open

NEW HAVEN — For two Jewish tennis players, New Haven is a great place to stop by on the road to the U.S. Open. American Jesse Levine, the 106th ranked mens player in the world, and Israeli Dudi Sela, ranked 75, spent last week at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament at Yales Connecticut Tennis Center in New haven, before heading off to New York to take their place in the main mens draw in the U.S. Open, which kicked off on Aug. 25.

Levine, 20, was born in Ottawa, Canada and moved with his family to Boca Raton, Fla. when he was thirteen, training at the Chris Evert Tennis Academy and at the Bollettieri Academy. The 5 9 Levine attended the Hillel Academy, a Jewish day school in Canada. He keeps a kosher home, often wears a Magen David around his neck. His successful juniors career included winning the Wimbledon doubles championship in 2005, and reaching the quarterfinals in singles that same year. Levine briefly attended the University of Florida in 2007, where he was 24-1, but withdrew in August 2007 to turn professional.He moved up in the rankings from 483 a year ago, to his current rank of 106. This year, he advanced to the second round at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open, and he won a Challenger event at Bradenton, Fla.

Levine was lucky in New Haven. He did not initially secure a spot in the main mens draw; Levine, playing sick in the qualifying rounds, was ousted in the second round of the qualifiers. Once Juan Martin Del Porto withdrew from the tournament, Levine was given a lucky loser spot, which entitled him to a spot in the main draw and a bye in the opening round. He went on to win his second round match against Spains Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-0, 6-3. Levines luck continued in the third round when Steve Darcis of Belgium withdrew due to back problems. He advanced to the quarter finals against American Mardy Fish, number 35 in the world. While Levine was defeated 6-3, 7-6, he was delighted to make it to his first quarterfinals of a major tournament. Jesse is a good young junior with a bright future, noted Fish.

Levine has enjoyed his involvement with Israeli players and members of various Jewish communities while on the professional tour.I have a lot of contact with the Israeli players, like Ram, Erlich, Sela and Levy. They sometimes ask me when I will play for Israel in the Davis Cup, he said.

He also appreciates the Jewish fans who cheer for him. At the tournament in Washington last week, they cheered and said things like, Come on, man, your opponent hasnt even had his bar mitzvah yet!

Israelis Moving Up
While Israeli Noam Okun lost in the qualifying rounds and did not make it in to the Pilot Pen main draw, Israeli Dudi Sela, won his first round match against American Donald Young, 6-4, 6-2. Sela lost in the second round to hard hitting left hander, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Sela, the first Israeli man in seven years to break in to the top 100, is proud to represent Israel in tournaments around the world. And he has enjoyed the support he receives from Jewish communities around the world. It is always very good to see Jews supporting me. I won a recent tournament in Vancouver because the Jewish community came out to support me! he said. Sela, and fellow Israelis Andy Ram, Yoni Erlich, and 24th-seededShahar Peer will play in the upcoming U.S. Open.

Though upset that he was not invited to play for Israel in the Olympics, Sela is particularly proud of his two recent matches in the David Cup which each lasted more than five hours and resulted in victories against Chile.

It was a very good experience for me, and for my career – hey were my biggest wins so far, and they gave me a big push he said.

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