Dudi Sela

Original Post Published at The Jerusalem Post

Israeli beaten in five sets by Cuevas; Djokovic, Nadal overcome wrist injuries to advance.

Dudi Sela was knocked out in the first round of a Grand Slam event for the fifth time in the past six tournaments on Monday, losing a five-set thriller to No. 18 seed Pablo Cuevas in the US Open in New York.

The 31-year-old Israeli, ranked No. 80 in the world, battled back from two sets down to force a decider, but required treatment on his right hand at the start of the fifth set and was beaten 6-3, 6-2, 0-6, 5-7, 6-3 after three hours and two minutes.

“I started off playing really bad, I was tight. Then in the third set, I broke him and held and I played a little better and more aggressive and took charge of the match from that point,” Sela told The Jerusalem Post. “I then had cramping in my fingers and had a hard time holding the racket when serving. I also had cramping in my shoulder and then I made too many mistakes.”

Sela, who will remain in Flushing Meadows to take part in the men’s doubles tournament with Frenchman Stephane Robert, was playing in his first event since the Rio Olympics.

“It was a great experience. It was very different from any other tournaments I have played in,” he said. “It was my first time in the Olympics. The Israel delegation was really professional and really good.”

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic opened the defense of his US Open title with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz on Monday, but the labored performance gave rise to fresh concerns about the world number one’s fitness.

After a sizzling start to the season that brought grand slam wins No. 11 and 12 at the Australian and French Opens, Djokovic’s form has plummeted, with a third-round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon followed by a first-round exit at the Rio Olympics.

The Serb might have been in trouble on another day at Flushing Meadows but Janowicz, ranked 246 places below Djokovic, has advanced from the first round just once in four previous US Open visits and looked unlikely to do it again on Monday.

Djokovic, a US Open finalist five of the last six years, next faces Czech Jiri Vesely.

Djokovic arrived in New York having been hampered by a left wrist injury and distracted by undisclosed “private matters” and on Monday trainers were called out early in the opening set to work on his right forearm.

Several times during the two hour, 37 minute match, Djokovic could be seen grimacing when hitting his powerful forehand, while his serve rarely looked threatening, stuck at around 100 mph.

“It was just prevention, it’s all good,” Djokovic told reporters.

“Look, each day presents us some kind of challenges that we need to accept and overcome.

“After all I’ve been through in the last couple of weeks it’s pleasing to finish the match and win it.”

The year’s final grand slam got off to a glitzy Hollywood-style start, with a performance from Phil Collins to mark the arrival of the $150 million retractable roof at the stadium.

Rafa Nadal was worn out from his Rio Olympics exertions after emerging from an injury absence to win doubles gold, but the Spaniard perked back up with his trip to New York for the US Open.

Nadal, who said his injured wrist is improving daily, beat Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, in his firstround match on Monday.

“The most important thing is I’m here in New York and that makes me happy,” said Spain’s 14-times grand slam winner, who could not continue through the French Open and also missed Wimbledon and the Toronto event due to his wrist injury.

Read more

Original Article Published at The Jerusalem Post

Dudi Sela, the only Israeli player in the main draw, was practicing at the US Open on Friday with hitting partner, American Sam Querrey, ranked No. 32 in the world.

When the US Open draw ceremony took place Friday morning at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, several coveted spots for the Grand Slam tennis event, which gets under way on Monday, were marked with the word “qualifier.”

The names of the men and women filling these 16 spots would not be known until the end of the day Friday. These 16 men and women are the lucky 32 players out of 256 who won three matches in last week’s US Open Qualifying Tournament to advance to the first round of the main draw.

The US Open Qualifying Tournament typically includes players ranked between 105 and 250 in the world.

Israeli tennis players Julia Glushko and Amir Weintraub won first-round matches last Tuesday.

Weintraub, ranked 209, defeated American Daniel Nguyen, but lost in the second round to ninth-seeded Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic. Stepanek has competed in 14 previous US Open tournaments and reached the fourth round in 2009.

Glushko, ranked No. 148, needed just under two hours to defeat 500th ranked Miharu Imanishi of Japan, 6-4, 7-5 in her first-round match. She lost to American Jennifer Brady, the 18th seed in the qualifying tournament, 6-4, 6-0. Weintraub and Glushko’s matches took place late Thursday evening and were interrupted by rain.

Despite Weintraub and Glushko’s status as top-ranked Israeli players, they must often compete in qualifying events for entry in major tennis tournaments.

In an effort to obtain ranking points, Weintraub often elects to enter lower level Futures and Challenger Tour events.

Weintraub has been outspoken about the pleasures, stresses and financial challenges he faces on the professional tennis tour.

“I will cover a lot of miles, sleep in a lot of hotel rooms, eat in a lot of restaurants, and get to see a lot of amazing cities,” he said. “And when I have a few minutes of down time, I look forward to talking to friends and family on WhatsApp, catching up with a few of my favorite TV series on the computer, and taking videos of funny things from the tour.”

Glushko and Weintraub earned several thousand US dollars for advancing to the second round of the qualifiers.

Players reaching the first round of the main singles draw receive $43,313. Players reaching the round of 64 earn $77,118.

Tournament winners and runners up receive $3,500,000 and $1,750,000. Glushko and Weintraub have each earned slightly more than $50,000 to date in 2016.

Meanwhile, Noah Rubin, a 20-year-old Jewish Long Island native, reached the third round of the qualifiers before losing on Friday afternoon to Karen Khachanov of Russia, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

“It was tough, it was a roller coaster of a match. I had to fight,” Rubin told The Jerusalem Post in a post-match interview in the US Open Media Center.

“It was great to have people cheering for me and supporting me. I want to make them proud.”

Rubin, in his second year of professional tennis, reached a career-high ranking of 160 and returns to tennis after a two-anda- half month absence due to a foot injury. Rubin will soon travel to Asia for a few tournaments then return to the US for the indoor tournament season. He hopes to qualify for the Australian Open in January.

Rubin, who celebrated his bar mitzva with a tennis theme, is proud of his Judaism. His sister participated in a Birthright trip, and although he has not yet been to Israel he says he “want[s] to go very badly. I want to get out there. Maybe on Birthright, or for a tournament or on vacation – once things settle down in my career.”

Dudi Sela, the only Israeli player in the main draw, was practicing at the US Open on Friday with hitting partner, American Sam Querrey, ranked No. 32 in the world. They practiced in the prestigious Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Sela, ranked No. 80, will face Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay on Monday in his first-round match. Cuevas, ranked 20th in the world, is the 18th seed in the US Open. They also met in the first round in New York last year, with Cuevas winning in four sets. With play beginning at 11am EST, the Sela-Cuevas match is the third match of the day on Court 4.

Read more

There is an unwritten rule that sports reporters simply do not root for a sports team or player while covering an event. Admittedly, this is difficult. A life-long Bostonian covering the Super Bowl February 1st in Glendale, Arizona may have a difficult time sitting poker-faced as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks. And an Argentinian reporter in Brazil covering the 2014 Germany vs. Argentina World Cup Finals may just be tempted to put on a light blue shirt to go with her light white slacks.

For me, covering the US Open Tennis Championships each year, and more recently, reporting from the Israel vs. Argentina Davis Cup matches in Sunrise, Florida pose similar dilemmas.

How is it possible not to cheer for Dudi Sela just after midnight when he outlasts an opponent in the 5th set on the outer courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York? How can I not be moved to clap — or cry — when Andy Ram is lying on center court in what may be his last match ever, as he and partner and friend, Jonathan Erlich win an epic Davis Cup doubles match against the Argentinians? Like that Argentinian reporter at the World Cup, I am careful not to put on a royal blue shirt to go with my white shorts — lest anyone think I am partisan.

But I am.  Perhaps it is a sense of landsmanschaft — pride in a member of the tribe, usually an underdog, competing on the world stage. I feel it in my kishkes when Julia Glushko or Shahar Peer make a great shot, or when Amir Weintraub makes it through the qualifiers, in to the main draw of a prestigious tournament.

I hold it together until I get to the media center, to interview the players.  While remaining professional, the Israeli players sigh a sigh of relief when I offer to do the interview in Hebrew, and when I tell them which Israeli or Jewish publication I am writing for. We move from questions about the just-completed match, to traveling the world as a Jew and Israeli, to “where will you be for Rosh Hashana.” We are fellow travelers.

In 2013, Israel was about to compete against Belgium in the World Group of the Davis Cup Play-Off, to be held in Antwerp, just one week after the US Open. A Belgian reporter and I requested a US Open post-match interview with Dudi Sela. Players are required to honor such requests. After I asked my questions, the Belgian reporter asked a series of questions — about the upcoming tournament, likely match ups, and about the timing of the match; the Israel Tennis Association had just received at $13,000 fine for refusing to play its match on Yom Kippur.

The reporter was working hard to understand what this holiday is and why Israel wasn’t going to play on that day. “It is a special day,” reported Sela. “A serious day.” The reporter probed further. “We don’t eat or drink.” The reporter (see photo) asked more questions. “So you don’t eat or drink? That must be hard just before a big match.”

“Well, I do, but….Amir Weintraub doesn’t…and my grandparents were religious and they didn’t eat or drink…”

The reporter was even more confused. At that point, Sela turned to me and asked for help explaining Yom Kippur. I took off my tennis writer’s hat and put on my Jewish educator’s hat. I explained Yom Kippur and the range of observances on that day by Israelis and Jews around the world. Now he was getting it, and Sela was so appreciative!

(Belgian reporter with Dudi Sela-US Open Media Center)

That same year, I was out to dinner with family in New York City.  Several blocks from the restaurant, I spot a blonde woman in a green dress with a male companion. She spots me and smiles.  My curious family wonders why she comes up to me to give a hug and kiss—and speak to me in Hebrew. “That is Julia Glushko—I just interviewed her today for a Times of Israel article!” I am not sure that professional athletes from other countries stop to greet reporters in the street.

I have since bumped into Dudi Sela many times, in many settings. I have observed him sticking around to sign autographs and pose for pictures for anyone who asks. And I have seen him show up at Israel Tennis Center sponsored clinics for poor children in New York. He is a real mensch, and I feel proud. I may try to hide my pride at matches, but I—and the players—feel a strong connection with fellow Jewish and Israeli-loving people.

I am not privileged to be Down Under this week in Melbourne covering the Australian Open tennis tournament. But lucky fans and reporters will witness something never seen in professional tennis—a first ever match up between Israeli Dudi Sela, 29 years old and currently ranked 106 in the world, versus Spaniard Rafa Nadal, 28, the number 3 player in the world. It is amazing they have never played since both have been at it for a long time. Nadal turned professional in 2001 and Sela in 2002. What are the odds? Nadal has won 64 titles including 14 Grand Slams—and has earned $71 million; Sela has earned $2 million over the course of his career but has yet to win a major title.

So who is a Jewish sports reporter to root for? The landsman you say?  Which one? In 2013, Simcha Jacobovici carefully argued in “Rafael Nadal: A Jewish Story?” that, perhaps, Rafael Nadal of Majorca may descend from Jews! He may be a converso.  While he flat out denied this when I asked this question at a US Open press conference, it is possible that Nadal either felt uncomfortable addressing the question in this forum, or he simply did not understand the question as it was posed in English.

Sports writer Sandra Harwitt, who has covered more than 70 Grand Slams tennis tournaments, takes up this question in her recently published “The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time.” (2014, New Chapter Press). While she doesn’t include Rafa on her list, she included Nadal in a section “Jewish Connections.”

Harwitt acknowledges, “Not that long ago, the Internet was alive with the suggestion that Rafael Nadal Parera might have a Sephardic Jewish heritage…it is known [that] the converted [to Catholicism] often chose the names Parera and Nadal as their new last names.” Harwritt asked her friend, ATP Tour Communications Senior Vice President, Nocola Arzani if he would approach Nadal and ask if these rumors were plausible—and she asked him to address Nadal in Spanish. Harwitt writes, “Nadal, it turns out, wasn’t surprised by Arzani’s query. In fact, the family was aware of the history of Sephardic Jews and had wondered themselves about the possibility they might have a Jewish past. Rafa told Nicola that his grandfather had done some research regarding both sides of the family — the Nadals on his father’ side, the Pareras on his mother’s side — but hadn’t turned up any evidence that ponted to a Jewish ancestry. How his grandfather went about the research and how far back he was able to dig is not known, but it could be an interesting pursuit for a genealogy specialist.”

For now, I’m rooting for Dudi Sela in Friday’s 3rd Australian Open round match.  But, I hold out hope that, perhaps Raphael Nadal will one day discover he is Jewish  and may even make Aliyah and play tennis for Israel. May the best Jewish man win!

(Source: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com)

Read more

As the Ledger went to press, the U.S. Open tennis tournament was in full swing at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.  This year’s Open, which kicked off on August 25 and comes to a close on Sept. 8, features a number of Jewish players from around the world – as well as kosher food and a few “frum” (Orthodox) ball boys and girls.

According to kippah-wearing ball boys Eric Wietschner and Moshe Brum, “There are approximately 10 frum ball boys. The U.S. Open is very accommodating, both in terms of scheduling and about wearing kippot on the job.”  Which left one fan, Jeremy Posner of Manhattan, to playfully wonder, “Why aren’t they issued Ralph Lauren kippot?” The Ralph Lauren Polo logo is prominently displayed on shirts and shoes of all ball boys and girls.

This year’s singles and doubles men’s draw featured 18-year-old Noah Rubin of Merrick, Long Island in N.Y.  Rubin won the Wimbledon juniors tournament in July. He received a wild card to play in the U.S. Open main draw after winning the Boys Junior National Tennis Championship in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Despite losing his singles match to 66th ranked Frederico Delbonis of Argentina (6-4, 6-3, 6-0), and his doubles match, with partner Stephan Kozlov, to Jared Donaldson and Michael Russell (6-2, 6-7, 6-4), the good-natured Rubin remained proud and confident. In a post-match press conference, Rubin said, “I learned that I can definitely compete with these guys at the best level. I’m just getting used to the atmosphere, getting used to being out there with the top players in the world.”

Rubin, who attended religious school and celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Merrick Jewish Center, collected tennis rackets to donate to the Israel Tennis Center for his “mitzvah project.” “I want people to know I’m Jewish and I like to represent the Jewish people,” he told the Ledger. Though he has not yet been to Israel, “I will be going!” he says, noting that his sister, Jessie, who served as vice president of Hillel and captain of the tennis team during her student years at Binghamton University, has been to Israel twice – once on a Birthright trip, and once on a JNF service trip. Though he’s missed the first week of classes, Rubin will now head for Winston-Salem, N.C. to begin his freshman year at Wake Forest University.

Four days before the start of play, Rubin had the opportunity to go head to head with the world’s number one player, Novak Djokovic, at an exhibition match benefitting New York’s John McEnroe Tennis Academy, where Rubin previously trained. Likewise, Diego Schwartzman, 22, a Jewish tennis player from Buenos Aires, Argentina, ranked #79 in the world, faced Djokovic in the first round of the Open in Arthur Ashe Stadium. While Djokovic beat Schwartzman 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, he hugged the Argentinian following the match and offered him both a compliment and some advice. “Diego is a talented player; very quick on the court. He has to work on his serve a little bit more,” he said. “I just wish him all the best for the future, you know, to keep on working. He’s talented. He has good potential to be a higher-ranked player.”

For Canadian Sharon Fichman, 23, ranked #112 for singles and #76 for doubles, the road to the U.S. Open was a tough one. After injuring both her ankle and knee in the months leading up to the tournament, she recently underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear. Still, she managed to play both singles and doubles matches – losing both in the first round. “I will get there.  It will just take time, effort and patience,” she said.

Israel’s Dudi Sela chats with fans after winning his first round match.

Israelis in the main draw for singles include Dudi Sela, Shahar Peer and Julia Glushko. In Sela’s first round match, the 83rd-ranked player battled back to defeat Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq. After losing the first set in 17 minutes, Sela came back to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. He lost in the second round against seventh seed Grigor Dmitrov of Bulgaria, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Sela now turns his attention to the Davis Cup World Group play-offs against Argentina, to take place Sept. 12-14 in Sunrise, Fla. Israel’s Davis Cup team consists of Sela, Amir Weintraub, Andy Ram, Jonathan Erlich and alternates Tal Goldengoren and Bar Botzer. The match was scheduled to be hosted by Israel, but was moved to Florida given the recent situation in Israel.

Shahar Peer, ranked #155, defeated Amanda Konta in the first round, 6-2, 6-3, but lost in the second round to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, #121, 6-7 6-3, 6-2. Julia Glushko, ranked #101, lost her first round match to American Madison Brengle, 6-3, 6-2.

Sportswriter Sandra Harwitt, who has covered more than 70 Grand Slam tennis tournaments for such publications as espn.com, Tennis Magazine and The New York Times, was on hand to sign copies of her new book, The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time. Harwitt notes the presence of other Jewish players in this year’s U.S. Open, including American Scott Lipsky and Camila Giorgi of Italy.

Among those included in Harwitt’s book – and a spectator at this year’s Open – is British Jewish tennis star Angela Buxton, now 80. In 1956, Buxton reached the Wimbledon singles finals, and won the French Open and Wimbledon doubles championships, teaming up with Althea Gibson, who was the first African American to cross the color line of international tennis. The remarkable story of their partnership is recounted in the recent movie, Althea and Angela: A Perfect Match, and the book, The Match: Althea Gibson & Angela Buxton: How Two Outsiders – One Black, the Other Jewish – Forged a Friendship and Made Sports History.

Finally, tennis fans in search of a kosher hotdog, sausage, knish, pretzel, deli sandwich and the like need search no further than the Open’s Kosher Grill, located near court 17 and open for lunch and dinner every day but Friday night and Saturday.

(Source: http://www.jewishledger.com)

Read more