(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Dudi Sela faces one of tennis’s rising stars in the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Happy Valley, Australia on Sunday. The 30-year-old Israeli, ranked No. 100 in the world, will be targeting his 20th career title on the circuit when he faces 18-year-old American Taylor Fritz.
After reaching the semifinals without dropping a set, Sela, who is the No. 1 seed, battled for two hours and 36 minutes against Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics before claiming a 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4) victory in the semis on Saturday.
Fritz is ranked at a career-high No. 174 in the world after beginning last year at No. 1151. He won the US Open Junior title last summer before also claiming two titles on the Challenger tour.
Sela is the only Israeli guaranteed a place in a singles main draw at the Australian Open, which gets underway next week.
Julia Glushko, Shahar Pe’er and Amir Weintraub will all aim to advance to the main draw via the qualifiers, which begin later this week.
Meanwhile, the ITF announced on Friday the official draw for the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I event to take place in Eilat on February 3-6.
All nations contesting in the event will be bidding for two berths in the Fed Cup World Group II playoffs on April 16-17.
Israel, which will be guided by new captain Tzipi Obziler for the first time and led by Glushko and Pe’er once more, was placed in Group C with Croatia (which will be led by Ana Konjuh and Donna Vekic), Estonia (which has Anett Kontaveit and veteran Kaia Kanepi) and Turkey. Israel is playing in Zone Group I for a seventh straight year.
Five top 50 players are set to play in Eilat, with Ukrainian Elina Svitolina joined by countrywoman Lesia Tsurenko, Yanina Wickmayer and Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium and Johanna Konta of Great Britain.