NEW YORK – For Gony Goldstein, Raz Moyal, and Dana Kamyshev, cheering for Shahar
Pe’er on Court Four at her first-round US Open match was only one highlight of
their week-long America tennis adventure.
The three young Israel tennis
players, ages nine, 11 and 13, in the US as part of an Israel Children’s Centers
tennis exhibition, enthusiastically cheered on Pe’er in her match against Jelena
Kostanic Tosic of Croatia.
“Yaalah,” “Kadima, Shahar,” “Go Pe’er!” they
shouted from the stands on this sunny, 33-degree day.
When Peer was down
3-2 in the second set, a very confident Raz said, “Shahar will beat her – you
Raz was right.
Despite some early serving difficulties
and missed volleys, Peer rallied to beat the slicing Kostantic Tosic 6-4,
“Shahar is my favorite,” reports Dana, who plays in a competitive
tennis program at the Tennis Center in Haifa.
“I like her strong
character – she doesn’t give up. I remember once she was down 5-0 and came back
Goni, who lives in Tel Aviv and players regularly at the Israel
Tennis Center in South Tel Aviv, is struck by how “everything in America is so
Goni loves Pe’er and adds, “I also love Roddick, Sharapova,
Davydenko and Venus Williams,” the knowledgeable nine-year-old
Goni was initially spotted by the same coach who recognized
Pe’er’s potential, and she has even hit tennis balls with Pe’er.
Moyal, from Ofakim, was jealous of his brother, who got to play tennis. One day,
his father offered him the chance to play.
“It was very fun,” noted Raz,
who diplomatically claimed Pe’er is his favorite player. “I just love her, she
is a very good player.”
But the smiley youngster adds, “I also love
Nadal, he is short like me, he is a lefty like me, and I look like him. People
call me Nadal.”
This group of young tennis players, representing three of
Israel’s fourteen tennis centers, was accompanied by coach Ron Becker, Israel
Children’s Center Executive Director Jeff Dannick, and Israeli Development
Associate Yoni Yair.
They returned home to Israel late Monday night and
would not be around to cheer on Israel’s Dudi Sela, Andy Ram and Yoni
Sela will play singles later in the week, and Ram and Erlich,
doubles partners before Erlich’s elbow injury, will play against each other in
doubles in the first round of the US Open.
In an interview following a
doubles match at last week’s Pilot Pen Tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, Ram
shared his thoughts on the future of Israeli tennis.
Mansdorf, there was a 10-year hole.
Then came Pe’er, Sela, Erlich and me.
We played at the Israel Tennis Centers for many years. I played in Ramat
HaSharon. We are in the process of building the next generation of Israeli
tennis players. It will come and there will be Israeli tennis.”
points to a number of 7-through-12-yearold “up and comers” in Israel, and he
draws special attention to 14 year old Valeria Patiuk, currently ranked 330th in
the world for juniors, and to 15-yearold Igor Smilansky, ranked No. 747 in the
“The combination of skills and size is hard to come by–these two
have both,” reports Dannick, who notes, “Israel has six or seven of the
1,000 men in the world and three or four of the top 1,000 women in the
Israelis, Jews around the world, and die-hard tennis fans will
spend the next two weeks watching Pe’er, Sela, Ram and Erlich (Noam Okun
Harel Levy played in the qualifiers for the US Open but failed to earn a
the main draw) and wonder about the future of Israeli tennis.
and Dana might represent exactly that.