andy ram 224.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Andy Ram's outstanding success with Max Mirnyi over the last month has not only made him $171,000 richer, but also places him in a dilemma he is surely dreading.
Since August of last year, Ram's long time partner Yoni Erlich has been struggling to recover from an elbow injury, forcing Ram to settle for interim partners.
Ram has teamed-up with six different players in Erlich's absence, but ever since he claimed the doubles title in Vienna last October with Mirnyi, in what was his first tournament without his injured good friend, it was obvious the Belarusian was the ideal replacement for Erlich.
Ram and Mirnyi, a former doubles world number 1, began 2009 together in Australia and, despite recording mediocre results down under, joined forces once more at the start of March ahead of two of the year's biggest tournaments, at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne.
Two weeks ago, the Israeli/Belarusian duo came tantalizingly close to winning in Indian Wells, squandering match points in the final against Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish.
This past Sunday, the two rebounded from the disappointing defeat in California in the best possible way, beating Stephen Huss and Ashley Fisher to claim the doubles title at a tournament often referred to as the "fifth Grand Slam".
The duo picked up some $342,000 in winnings, as well as 1600 ranking points from these two tournaments alone, taking them to second position in the ATP's doubles team rankings, trailing only the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, of the US.
Ram and Mirnyi plan to play together in the upcoming clay court season, starting from the Monte Carlo Masters next week, and certainly like their chances at Roland Garros, which begins at the end of May.
Erlich has suffered setback after setback in his recovery from elbow surgery, but is hoping to be back on court by the summer, especially with the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Russia to look forward to in July.
However, all of the above leaves Ram in quite a predicament.
The 29-year-old has stated time and again that he can't wait to return to play with his partner since 2003.
But considering Erlich's lengthy layoff, it will likely take him some time to regain match fitness and he may possibly never get back to his previous best.
Ram will need to decide if he's going to work together with Erlich in the hope of regaining some of their former glory, or rather maintain his successful partnership with Mirnyi until the end of the year, when it will be clearer whether Erlich is once more the top player he used to be.
With no date yet set for Erlich's delayed comeback, Ram can concentrate for the moment on winning more titles with Mirnyi.
However, sooner rather than later, he will have to decide on the answer to a dilemma which will not only determine what he achieves this year, but also how the latter part of his career will be remembered.