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(photo credit: Getty Images/Pilot Pen Tennis)
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich left Israel for China on Tuesday evening ahead of the season ending Masters Cup that begins in Shanghai on November 12.
Only the world's top eight double teams and singles players will take part in the prestigious tournament, with Ram and Erlich the first Israelis ever to take part in it.
Ram and Erlich, who qualified for the competition after finishing seventh in the ATP Doubles Race, were also extremely close to participating in the competition last year, but missed out by a single spot and served as alternates.
"You have to be successful for the entire season to reach the Masters Cup and this will be an extraordinary experience," Ram said Tuesday before leaving for China. "Last year we were only alternates, but this time around we are going to play and not just go to Shanghai to buy DVD's and have massages."
The eight pairs are split into two groups of four, and every team plays once against each opponent in its group. The top two from each group qualify for the semifinals.
"Every match in the group stage is like a Grand Slam final," Erlich said Tuesday. "In a regular tournament, the goal is to advance past the first couple of rounds and to improve as the competition progresses. However, in the Masters Cup every game is extremely important."
Ram and Erlich, who won four ATP doubles tournaments this season, last played on the ATP circuit in Paris at the end of October. They spent the last week in Israel preparing for the Masters Cup and recuperating from their exhausting season.
"The last seven days in Israel were extremely beneficial and have helped us recharge our batteries," Ram said. "We were worn out from the long season. It's not easy being abroad for 10 months, living in hotels and constantly flying all over the world."
"The mental aspect is extremely important," he added.