Yshai Oliel .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Yshai Oliel came tantilizingly close to becoming the first Israeli boy to win a Junior Grand Slam event on Saturday, losing in the final of the Australian Open.
The 17-year-old Israeli, who is placed at No. 12 in the ITF’s Junior rankings, suffered a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 loss to 16-year-old Hungarian Zsombor Piros.
Oliel defeated top seed Yibing Wu 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in the semifinals on Friday, but couldn’t recapture that form on Saturday, being broken five times during the one hour and 52 minute encounter.
Oliel was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Shahar Pe’er, who took the girls’ title at the Australian Open in 2004 and Anna Smashnova, who won the girls’ French Open in 1991.
“I’m very disappointed with today’s result. I felt like I could win,” said Oliel, who broke into tears during the trophy ceremony. “But I’m happy with my tournament and with my recent progress. I’m certain that if I continue this way I will reach these stages again and hopefully win.”
Oliel became just the second Israeli to reach a boys’ final at a Grand Slam event, with Noam Behr losing in the final of the US Open in 1992.
Oliel’s previous best at a Grand Slam was making the last 16 at the US Open last year. He won the boys’ doubles title at Roland Garros in 2016 with Czech partner Patrik Rikl.
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Oliel, who is currently at No. 934 in the ATP rankings, has been making headlines even before he was a teenager. In December 2014, he became just the ninth boy to capture both the 12s and 14s titles at the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl International in Florida.
Oliel has been supported over the past eight years by the David Squad, which was set up a decade ago by David Coffer, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist from Britain, and his son Adam.
“When we began this journey our goal was to create a Grand Slam champion,” said David Coffer. “People thought it was a dream but we always remained focused on that goal. Eight years after we began supporting Yshai we will continue in our way and we are certain that we will reach our goal very soon.”
Israel Tennis Association CEO Shlomo Glickstein thanked the David Squad for its help and was confident this is only the beginning for Oliel.
“This was an amazing tournament and a superb achievement for Oliel,” said Glickstein. “It will help his ranking, his level of play, his confidence and his belief in his own abilities.”
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