Oliel leads Israel’s young tennis talents

Original Article Published at The Jerusalem Post

When the going gets tough, the coach stays calm. Even during a heart-breaking loss for Yshai Oliel in the junior boys’ doubles semifinals at the US Open, coach Jan Pochter appeared relaxed.

Pochter accompanied the 16-year-old Israeli tennis player to New York for his week of juniors’ singles and doubles play at the US Open.

Pochter sat in the stands and maintained eye contact with Oliel.

Pochter studied each point Oliel played in his singles and doubles matches. Pochter will bring his thoughtful analysis and insight back to Israel and use it in his work to help bring him to the next level of play.

During their week in New York, Pochter watched Oliel come back from one set down in both the first and second rounds, even taking out the tournament’s second seed.

Pochter calmly watched Oliel receive a medical timeout to treat his leg early in his third round singles loss to No. 13 seed Nicola Kuhn.

And Pocther calmly watched as Oliel won two pulse-raising doubles matches in a super tiebreaker.

Fridays’ later afternoon doubles semifinals match against Juan Carlos Manuel Aguilar of Bolivia and Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves of Brazil was the ultimate testament to Pochter’s calm demeanor.

The doubles teams battled to a 4-4 tie in the first set on the way to a 6-4 Oliel/Bergs win.

In the second set, Oliel and Bergs’ 3-2 lead faded as their opponents battled back to a 6-6 tie, and crushed Oliel and Bergs 7-1 in the tiebreaker.

Pochter never flinched. Even trailing in the 10-point super tiebreaker 5-0, then 6-0, then 7-0, Pochter’s only response was a reassuring, “Fight ’til the end.” The end was near.

Aguilar and Alves won 10-2 to advance to the finals. Oliel, who won this year’s Roland Garros junior doubles title in June, left New York for Israel late Saturday night.

Pochter was doing double duty at this year’s US Open.

He also filled in for coach Tzipi Obziler. Oblizer was unable to coach Israeli junior girls’ player, Shelly Krolitzky through her two doubles qualifying matches and her US Open main draw singles and doubles matches.

Krolitzky returned to Israel on Friday.

For a coach, tournaments like the US Open are learning opportunities.

“The tournament was a good experience for Yshai,” said Pochter. “I think he learned that he needs to get stronger physically and mentally and to improve all parts of his game. If he does, he has a chance to become a very good player. We look forward to him playing on the professional level. I think he can do it.”

Pochter was impressed with Yshai’s performance and partially credits the Israeli and Jewish crowd who consistently filled the stands.

“The US Open is one of the best places to play. The atmosphere is amazing.”

Oliel, the tall, hard hitting left-hander with solid ground strokes and serve, showed the New York crowd how much potential he has.

Unlike the biblical Samson, who lost his strength after his hair was cut, Oliel seems to get only stronger post coiffing.

And Yshai’s motives for cutting his signature long hair were more earnest than in the Samson story.

“I cut it because one of my sister’s told me it is too long and I need to be more like a man. I donated it for children with cancer,” said Oliel.

Yshai is the youngest of five Oliel children.

While coach Pochter may have some specific areas for Oliel to focus on, he is not likely to address an area in need of improvement which was very obvious to members of the media. The sweet, modest player of humble roots could use some media training.

After he took out No. 2 seed and spoke to The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz journalists, another four writers, including US Open staff reporters, requested a press conference.

While Oliel was pleasant and cooperative, and his English was quite good, he didn’t have much to offer. He answered all questions, but didn’t elaborate, share or come across as full of life and great stories.

A trusted writer colleague present at the interview shared: “He could use some media coaching.”

Oliel will likely continue on a path of tennis success and will represent Israel tennis and Israel in many venues around the world.

The David Squad, ITA and various top coaches are working on his game.

I would love to see English speakers with media training reach out to Yshai and volunteer to help him get to the next level.”

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