Diego Schwartzman

Original Article Published On The JP

Djokovic, Thiem, Schwartzman among the headliners • Returning tournament to start on Rosh Hashanah

Fans of Israel tennis are overjoyed that the Watergen ATP 250 series Tel Aviv Open will return to Israel this September after a 26-year hiatus. The hype is especially high since such top players as Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic and Jewish-Argentine Diego Schwartzman will be coming to the Holy Land.

Some tennis lovers, however, wish the tournament would have delayed its September 25 start date by two days to avoid conflicting with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

The tournament, with $949,475 in prize money, takes place September 25-October 2 at the Expo Tel Aviv complex. The tournament follows Israel’s hosting of the Davis Cup, the premier international team event in men’s tennis, against the Czech Republic in Tel Aviv on September 16 and 17.

Sunday, the 25th, is the eve of Rosh Hashanah, which will continue through sunset on Tuesday, September 27.

Stars recall previous trips to Israel

“It is very exciting to have a prestigious ATP event back in Israel. It is amazing the names of the players that have signed up for the tournament,” reports an excited Yoni Yair, VP of Development for Israel Tennis and Education Centers (ITEC).

Other top players in the 28-person men’s singles draw and the 16-team doubles draw include Botic Van De Zandschulp of the Netherlands, Karen Khachanov (Russia), Tommy Paul (USA), Jenson Brooksby (USA), and Adrian Mannarino (France).

Joao Sousa of Portugal enjoyed being in Israel in 2012 for the Davis Cup but playfully noted, “You beat me – not a very good memory!”

Sousa, like many players, has opportunities to explore Israel given the playing demands.

“I didn’t get to travel around Israel but we stayed in a nice hotel near the beach in Tel Aviv. The country had a nice atmosphere. Hopefully, I will get to explore more!”

Yair recalls the excitement in Israel when past tournaments came to town.

“I remember the buzz and the atmosphere through the years that we hosted the international ATP tournament in Israel. It was such a special time in Israel when first-class players played in the tournament. The stands were always full.”

Yair, whose Israel Tennis and Education Centers provide tennis training and social impact programming to thousands in Israel, is pleased with the impact of such tournaments on the younger generation of Israelis.

“These tournaments were a huge inspiration for our younger players to dream big. I am sure that this event will be a huge success and will drive and introduce the game of tennis to so many young children. The tournament will have a huge impact on tennis in Israel and will create great morale.”

“The tournament will have a huge impact on tennis in Israel and will create great morale”Yoni Yair, VP of Development for Israel Tennis and Education Centers

DIEGO SCHWARTZMAN (right) and Spaniard Rafael Nadal meet at the net after the Jewish-Argentine won their quarterfinal match last month in Rome. The two face off today in the French Open semifinals (credit: REUTERS)

Argentine grandson of Holocaust survivors makes Holy Land return

Schwartzman has spoken openly about being Jewish and being the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“My great grandfather on my mom’s side, who lived in Poland, was put on a train to a concentration camp during the Holocaust,” the 16th-ranked Schwartzman recently noted. “The coupling that connected two of the train’s cars somehow broke. Part of the train kept going, and the other stayed behind. That allowed everyone trapped inside, including my great-grandfather, to run for their lives. Luckily, he made it without being caught. Just thinking about it makes me realize how lives can change in a heartbeat.

My great grandfather brought his family by boat to Argentina. When they arrived, they spoke Yiddish and no Spanish. My father’s family was from Russia, and they also went to Argentina by boat. It wasn’t easy for all of them to totally change their lives after the war, but they did.”

Schwartzman is excited to finally get to Israel.

“I really want to be there. It is my first time. I have friends there. Many of my friends went there a few weeks ago for the Maccabiah. I know everything about the country but I want to be there just to see myself – some tennis and some good moments, I hope.”

Schwartzman will not have much of an opportunity to travel around Israel as his next tournament following the Watergen Tel Aviv Open will be in Kazakhstan or Japan.

Israel to welcome world’s former No. 1

While the Israel tournament is delighted to welcome a top-ranked Jewish player to the tournament and to Israel, there is added excitement in welcoming world’s former No. 1, Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic has been considered controversial for a number of his views on vaccination. The 35 year old has refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, he has missed such tournaments as the Australian Open and the current US Open. He did play at Wimbledon where he went on to win the tournament.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC is not playing in the ongoing US Open due to his COVID-19 unvaccinated status. But the Serb is slated to play next month in Tel Aviv. (credit: REUTERS)

Djokovic is also no stranger to Israel, having visited in 2006 to receive treatment from physiotherapist Rafi Virshuvski. He has visited on other occasions and was quoted as saying: “I played here with Serbia in the Davis Cup, but we didn’t have time to travel. This time I did some traveling in my three days here, you have an incredible country. I got to know it a little bit now and discovered there is plenty more to see. I was in Jerusalem in all the holy places. It was an amazing experience. As a religious man, a Christian, I feel obligated to come here at least one more time to see and experience the fantastic holy land, to pray and see where Jesus was crucified, where he was, where he was buried.”

“We are happy and excited to host one of the greatest tennis players in history, Novak Djokovic, at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open 2022 tournament and look forward to enjoying his impressive playing skills here in Israel,” added Watergen President Michael Mirilashvili.

One lifelong supporter of Israel tennis recently wrote to Mirilashvili to share concerns about the tournament coinciding with Rosh Hashanah.

“It is disappointing and that is putting it mildly, to realize that the first two dates of the tournament will be played on Rosh Hashanah, September 26 and 27. This not only clearly desecrates the spiritual holiness of these sacred days in the Jewish calendar; it also prevents those of us who are Orthodox and who love tennis, from attending on those two days. And there are certainly some who will boycott the entire tournament because of this religious desecration.”

He suggested that the Israel Tennis Association, the ATP and the CEO of Watergen, consider suspending play on Rosh Hashanah and extend the tournament through October 4.

“As a tennis aficionado, I know that with the commitments of the players and officials such a suspension would not be easy.”

The tournament is scheduled to proceed as planned with play starting on September 25.

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Original Article Published On The JNS

When Diego Schwartzman outlasted Kevin Anderson in Wednesday night’s rain-drenched match—requiring relocation from Louis Armstrong to Arthur Ashe Stadium mid-game—he became the identified Jewish player who is guaranteed to go deepest in this year’s US Open singles draw. The prestigious Grand Slam tennis event is taking place from Aug. 24 to Sept. 12 in New York.

The proudly Jewish Argentinian started his match against the 2017 US Open runner-up at 7:30 p.m. at Louis Armstrong—a stadium with a retractable roof, but with ventilation openings that allowed rain on to the courts—but then was put on hold at 5-5 in the first set. The court was dried and play resumed, even though large puddles continued to form. The match was relocated to Ashe with the 11th-seeded Schwartzman completed his 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win at 1:30 a.m.

Two days earlier, on the sunny first day of the tournament, Schwartzman (#14 in the world) defeated hard-hitting Ričardas Berankis in straight sets 75-63-63. Following the match, Schwarzman put on a mask and patiently signed tennis balls, iPhone cases and even baseballs for dozens of fans—several wearing yarmulkes and many unfurling Argentine flags and chanting “Diego” repeatedly.

Schwartzman, known as “El Peque” for his short stature, is proud of his Jewish heritage. He grew up playing tennis at Club Náutico Hacoaj, the Jewish club in Buenos Aires, and he has spoken about his Polish maternal great-grandfather who crammed with others into a cattle car en route to a concentration camp during the World War II. The coupling broke apart, leaving his car behind at a station as others went to their deaths. He jumped off the train and fled, eventually traveling by ship with his family to Argentina.

Schwartzman reached the US Open quarterfinals in 2017 and 2019. He is now on to the third round, where he will face Alex Molčan of Slovakia.

Denis Shapovalov, #10 in the world and the tournament’s #7 seed, doesn’t openly identify as Jewish, though he was born in Tel Aviv to a Ukrainian Jewish mother and a Russian Orthodox Christian father. The 22-year-old Canadian easily defeated Roberta Carballés Baena 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, 6-0 in a little more than two hours in their second-round match on Thursday night.

Elina Svitolina, May 9, 2019. Credit: si.robi via Wikimedia Commons.

There were four Jewish women in the main draw: Jamie Loeb (#194), from Ossining, N.Y.; Madison Brengle (#77); Camila Giorgi; and unconfirmed Jewish player Elina Svitolina. Loeb, who won three matches in the qualifying tournament to gain a spot in the main draw, lost her first-round match. Brengle, a 31-year-old from Dover, Del., lost her first-round singles and doubles matches. This was her ninth appearance in the US Open.

Camila Giorgi (#36) of Italy lost her first-round match to #12 seed Simona Halep (# 13) of Romania 6-4, 7-6 (3). Giorgi, who has had seven top 20 wins this season and won the National Bank Open this summer, recently confirmed to a reporter that she is proudly Jewish, that her parents are Argentines who immigrated to Italy, and that Anne Frank is her favorite book. “The book moved me because I am Jewish, but also because she was such a good person who saw the good in people,” she said.

World #5 Elina Svitolina has unconfirmed Jewish family history. She has won her first two matches in straight sets and will face Russian Daria Kasatkina in the third round.

Doubling down on Israeli players

Others Jewish players in the main draw include 44-year-old doubles specialist Jonathan Erlich. He and South African Lloyd Harris faced Austrians Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald on Friday in their first-round match. They advanced to the second round after winning 62, 67 (73), 62  in an hour and 46 minutes. Israeli Dudi Sela, currently #322, was scheduled to compete in the qualifying tournament but reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 before it began.

Jonathan Ehrlich, May 28, 2016, Credit: si.robi via Wikimedia Commons.

Fans keeping score of the numbers—or rather, the percent—of Jews in the men’s and women’s singles draws and in the men’s doubles draw may be pleasantly surprised.

According to most estimates, Jews make up .2 percent of the world’s population. To put it more specifically, there are 14.7 Jews in a world populated by 7.89 billion people. The percentage of Jews in men’s and women’s singles draws (if you consider Shapovalov as well as Svitolina) and men’s doubles draw are way ahead of percentages of Jews in the world.

Jewish players make up two of 128 or 1.56 percent of the men’s draw, 3.12 percent of the women’s draw (four of out of 128) and 1.56 percent of the men’s doubles draw (one team member out of 64 teams).

And while Israel’s one representative in the tournament seems low, especially when compared to such countries as Australia (26 players) and Argentina (20), they only lag slightly behind Finland (3) and Ecuador (2). They are right at home with North African and Mideast neighbors Tunisia (1) and Egypt (1).

Fans of Israel tennis remember not so many years ago when they could regularly see Israelis Shahar Peer, Julia Glushko, David (“Dudi”) Sela and Andy Ram in action at the US Open.

While few such pros or juniors remain in action this year, Hans Felius, the director of Tennis and Social Impact Programs at the ITEC (Israel Tennis Educational Centers), and the professional staff of Israel’s David Squad are systematically training Israeli children with great potential to one day play in the US Open and other major junior and adult tournaments around the world. When their efforts come to fruition, it will surely help the Jewish and Israeli tournament numbers and percentages.

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

The young tennis player, who now ranks 28th in the world, brings a lot of pride to the Jewish athletic world.

from Argentina sat with a curious Jerusalem Post reporter in the Media Center of the US Open. Despite his at-the-time recently-achieved career high ranking of No. 61 (he is now ranked 28th in the world), few reporters were interested in Diego Schwartzman.Schwarzman, then 23, was engaging, polite, always-smiling and happy to speak about his family, Jewish upbringing in Argentina, love of soccer and, of course, tennis.

Schwartzman stands 5-foot-7-inches (1.7 meters), and is known affectionately by the Argentinian Jewish community as “el Peque” (the small). He started playing tennis and soccer at seven years old at Club Nautico Hacoaj, a Jewish sports club in Buenos Aires.

Schwartzman and his three older siblings – brothers Andres and Matias and sister Natali – all played soccer, attended Hebrew school and celebrated their bar and bat mitzvas.

By the age of 13, Diego focused exclusively on tennis.

“I did not have time for Hebrew school because of tennis,” said Schwartzman, though he noted that he and his family “respect Jewish traditions” and occasionally attend synagogue.

In many ways, Schwartzman is a typical Argentine young adult. He enjoys sports, hanging out with friends, listening to music and going to bars on the weekends. But unlike friends who have already attended university, Schwartzman’s desire to study management and public affairs will have to wait.

His professional tennis career is really taking off.

By the end of this year’s extraordinarily successful US Open, the 25-year-old Schwarzman was a household name among tennis fans, and members of the press from around the world filled a large interview room almost daily to ask questions – both in English and Spanish press conferences – about his stunning come-from-behind victories against top players – and about being the shortest player by far in the top 50.

What a difference three years and a tremendous two week run at a Grand Slam tennis tournament makes.

Schwartzman arrived at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, a few days before the August 28 start of the US Open.

In a post-practice interview with The Jerusalem Post in the player’s garden, Schwartzman discussed his past year on the ATP Tour, some changes to his team, and what it might take to “go deep” in a major tournament.

Schwartzman clearly had no expectation of advancing to the quarterfinals of the impending major.

“I think I have improved a lot in many things. I am really focused, both inside the court and outside the court,” he said.

He is pleased with his recent progress.

“This year was really good so far. I played really good. I made lots of quarterfinals and some semifinals, but I still need to improve a few things, like the physical and recovery after matches.”

Schwarzman lost a high-profile five setter to Novak Djokovic at the French Open earlier this year.

Then came the US Open, where Schwartzman surprised even himself, taking out a number of giants in rapid succession, including fellow countryman Carlos Berlocq (6-2, 6-1, 6-3), Serbian Janko Tipsarevic (6-2, 6-4, 7-5), fifth-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia (4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4), and No. 16 Lucas Pouille of France (7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2) in his first career Grand Slam fourth round.

Schwartzman remained a gentleman throughout the tournament, consistently sharing kind words about his opponents. Following the Cilic match, Schwartzman shook hands and apologized.

“I just said nice words for him, because he’s a big-time player as well as a really good guy.”

Prior to facing Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals, Schwartzman noted, “It’s going to be really nice for me. I am really happy to be in the quarterfinals this year. I am excited to play Pablo since he’s my friend off the court. We have a good relationship in the locker rooms, and we share a lot of things outside the tennis life.”

Schwartzman ultimately lost to Carreno Busta (6-4, 6-4, 6-2) before an enthusiastic capacity crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium, chanting “Vamanos” (let’s go”) and the soccer chant, “Ole Ole Ole.”

Shwartzman’s storied run in New York earned him $470,000 and raised his profile and popularity in the tennis world. (Prior to the US Open, he earned $828,051 in 2017 and had total career prize money of $2,221,962).

Now, he is off to Kazakhstan where he will be a member of the Argentinian Davis Cup Team as it squares off against Kazakhstan in the September 15-17 World Group Play-Offs.

A long-awaited first trip to Israel will still have to wait.

“I am good friends with Dudi Sela and I really want to go to Israel. I almost got to go for the Maccabiah this year!” Whether or not he makes it to the Holy Land in the near future, the future is bright for Schwartzman, and with his play and attitude he is sure to garner more fans and admirers in the Jewish world and beyond.

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