Israeli tennis player Amir Weintraub.
(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
The main draw of the Israel Open ATP Challenger Tour event in Ra’anana will get under way on Tuesday, with the local favorites to enter the fray in the second day of action.
After claiming his 20th career title on the Challenger circuit in Shenzhen, China on Sunday, Israel No. 1 Dudi Sela will face countryman Tal Goldengoren (815) in the first round, with the latter receiving a wild-card.
There will be another local derby in the first round, with Amir Weintraub (197) to play Edan Leshem (570).
Sela, ranked No. 84 in the world, is set to rise almost 20 places when the new rankings are released next week following the Miami Open Masters event thanks to his triumph in Shenzhen.
The 30-year-old Israeli raced through the draw without losing a set and took another step towards securing his place at this summer’s Rio Olympics.
The top 56 in the world in the ATP rankings to be published on June 6 will qualify for Rio, with each country only being allowed to send four representatives.
“I am so happy to win my 20th Challenger title in Shenzhen,” Sela told the ATP Tour’s official website. “Winning a title here is very important because I didn’t play well after the Australian Open.
The performance this week can boost my confidence for the rest of the year.”
With the win over local favorite Di Wu in the final, Sela joined Yen-Hsun Lu as the only players on tour with 20 Challenger titles, moving within two of the latter’s record.
“The Challengers have been a very important part of my career,” said Sela.
“These tournaments aren’t easy because most of the players either were in the top 100 or have the ability to get there. But whenever my ranking dropped a bit, I would always go back to the Challengers to get some matches and confidence.”
Sela’s win in Shenzhen ensures he will receive direct entry into the main draw of Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year.
“I started the year very well and my goal was to get back into the top 50, but then I lost five matches in a row, so your goal is always changing,” said Sela. “But my main goal is still to win an ATP World Tour title.
I’ve been a finalist two times before (at Beijing in 2008 and Atlanta in 2014), so I believe I can reach this one day.”
Meanwhile, five-time tournament champion Novak Djokovic overcame a first-set spill to beat unseeded Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-4, 6-1 in the third round at the Miami Open in Florida on Sunday.
The world No. 1 fell on his left side while hitting a forehand on the baseline and his shot went into the net to allow Sousa to pull even at 4-4.
But Djokovic was not injured and he dusted himself off and won eight out of the next nine games in a 77-minute match. The Serb is vying to match Andre Agassi’s tournament record of six wins in Key Biscayne.
Djokovic will meet world No. 14 Dominic Thiem in the next round after the Austrian defeated Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2.Reuters contributed to this report.