The Last Word: Roger who? Dudi's on the rise

It is up to Sela to show that he can become one of the best players in the world and make Israel proud.

By JEREMY LAST
June 25, 2009 23:46
3 minute read.
The Last Word: Roger who? Dudi's on the rise

jeremy last new 298.88. (photo credit: Jeremy Last)

 
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Dudi Sela's sweeping victory over last year's Wimbledon semifinalist Rainer Schuettler in the second round at the All England Club on Wednesday showcased the remarkable talent Israeli tennis has on its hands. Bookmakers had rightly made Schuettler the favorite to defeat the 24-year-old from Kiryat Shmona. The German is far more experienced at Grand Slams, having also reached the final at the Australian Open in 2003. But Sela not only turned the form book upside down, but did so in a way that bodes extremely well for his future attempts to climb up the world rankings. Even if he loses to Tommy Robredo in the third round on Friday, Sela will find himself at least in the top 40 of the ATP rankings for the first time in his career. Sela exuded confidence throughout the stunning three sets to love triumph over Schuettler, turning around a 5-2 deficit in the first set before pulverizing his 33-year-old opponent into submission. It was delightful to see him confuse Schuettler with a full array of drop shots and slices, while his powerful backhand was responsible for a large number of his 44 winners. Sela could seemingly do no wrong, taking the whole experience in his stride. He even told Jerusalem Post reporter Andrew Sherwood after the game that he didn't think he played particularly well. Just last year Shahar Pe'er was the only Israeli tennis player who appeared to have the talent and attitude to make a significant impact on the world stage. But the girl from Maccabim has been unable to retain the form that saw her reach the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, beating current world number one Dinara Safina en-route. Temperament is so important for tennis, a sport which requires intense mental focus for a period of hours, as well as deep physical exertion. While Pe'er managed to reach the top 20 last year, her inability to hold on to a high position said much about her lack of focus when its needed. Sela, however, may be the real deal. His relaxed but professional approach is exactly what is needed in the extremely tough ATP tour. The win over Schuettler also illustrated Sela's ability to learn quickly and adapt. This is only his second appearance at Wimbledon, his first coming last year when he lost in the first round. This year Sela played two warm up events on grass ahead of Wimbledon, first losing in the first round in Halle but then making it to the quarterfinals of the Ordina Open in Holland a week later. The recent victories have also proved that Sela was right to be upset last year when he was denied a place at the Olympics by the Olympic Committee of Israe; because he didn't satisfy OCI criteria even though he had met the requirements of the International Olympic Committee. Then ranked 60th in the world, Sela was sure he could pull off an upset or two in Beijing but the OCI thought it would be a waste of time to even give him the chance. At the time Sela's most impressive performances had been when representing Israel in the Davis Cup, most notably beating world number 7 Fernando Gonzalez in the tie against Chile in 2007. The Israeli's excellent form comes just at the right time for his country, which faces Russia in the Davis Cup at the Nokia Arena in two week's time. The choice of venue has not been without its critics, with Sela one of the most vocal. In April he even held a press conference announcing his opposition to the location, saying the tie should be played at Ramat Hasharon as usual. But the court has been layed and the team is ready. Now it is up to Sela to show that he can become one of the best players in the world and make Israel proud. jeremy@jpost.com

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