Sinai Says: Israeli need to help athletes exposed
Tennis star almost called it quits in 2009 after growing fed up with asking his parents for money to sponsor his dream.
Amir Weintraub Photo: Asaf Kliger
Rosh Hashana is the time of the year for introspection in every aspect of
This space may be far from big enough to list all the sins of
Israeli sports and all that needs to be put right in the coming year.
you would be hard-pressed to find a sporting transgression as severe as that
which pushed Amir Weintraub to the brink of retirement three years
Weintraub, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Sunday, was never a
potential Grand Slam winner and he may not even possess the talent to become a
However, considering his performances in the Davis Cup
since he began representing Israel last year – and especially over the past
weekend in the 3-2 victory over Japan – there is little doubt he should have
been earning a living as a top-100 player long ago.
Instead, he almost
called it quits in 2009 after growing fed up with asking his parents for money
to sponsor his dream.
Weintraub began coaching kids to make ends meet,
but coach Shlomo Zoreff persuaded him to give the professional tour one more
He heeded his call, but his career has yet to take
Weintraub reached a careerhigh No. 161 in the world rankings in May
of last year, but dropped to No. 223 last week before climbing nine places to
214 on Monday following his two victories in Tokyo.
Not only did
Weintraub beat two top-70 players in three days, dominating Go Soeda (52) and
Tatsuma Ito (67) for large periods of their encounters, but he also did so with
a delightful style of tennis which should have resulted in a far more successful
career to date.
The lack of financial support from the sporting
establishment in Israel and the absence of a commercial sponsor not only
irreversibly hampered Weintraub’s growth as a player, but also continues to
hinder his progress until this day.
In his desperation, Weintraub turned
earlier this summer to the World Team Tennis league in the United States, which
offers significant economic rewards.
He spent three weeks in July playing
for the Springfield Lasers in matches that are often more like exhibition
encounters than professional ones, with former players of the likes of John
McEnroe and Martina Hingis also participating in the
Unfortunately for Weintraub, the Lasers failed to make it to the
semifinals, meaning he missed out on a $30,000 bonus he could have really
Nevertheless, he hopes to return to the WTT next year, with
second-year players earning far more than rookies.
We will never know
what Weintraub might have achieved had he been given sufficient backing over the
But that is all in the past.
The real depressing part
is that Weintraub currently doesn’t even have the foundation he requires to
realize his potential for the remainder of his career.
That is something
Israeli sports can scarcely afford.