(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ITA)
Amir Weintraub’s return to the Challenger circuit will come against no other than Davis Cup teammate Dudi Sela, after the two were drawn to face each other in the first round of this week’s Israel Open tournament in Ra’anana.
The 28-year-old Weintraub played his first match since losing in the first round of the Wimbledon qualifiers in June 2014 last week, losing 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 to Adrian Sikora in the opening round of the $10,000 Futures circuit event in Ramat Hasharon.
The $125,000 tournament in Ra’anana is the biggest to be held in the country in many years and Weintraub is hoping to make a run and boost his ranking after falling to No. 486 in the world due to his long-term absence.
However, after receiving a wild card into the main draw, he was paired with No. 5 seed Sela (112), who will be a firm favorite to advance assuming he manages to recover from the illness which has kept him in bed over recent days.
“I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry,” said Weintraub after hearing of the draw.
“After a very tough year I am back playing. I had a pretty good week last week, but I’m suffering from some pain this week once more. Dudi was the last player I thought I would meet. I’m not sure if I’m ready for his level yet.”
Blaz Kavcic (88) of Slovenia is the No. 1 seed in Ra’anana, with Lukas Lacko (99) of Slovakia, Blaz Rola (101) of Slovenia and Marsel Ilhan (102) of Turkey to also play in this week’s tournament. The winner of the event, which ends next Sunday, will receive $18,000 and 110 ranking points.
Apart from Weintraub, two other Israelis received a wild card, youngsters Tal Goldengoren (677) and Bar Botzer (888). Seven other Israelis took part in the qualifiers, but were all knocked out on Sunday.