An International Tennis Federation Level 3 competition – the Marshall Open in honor of Ronnie Sender – was held this month at the Kiryat Shmona Tennis Center. The competition hosted 120 boys and girls up to age 18 from 25 countries.An event such as this provides young Israeli tennis players with the opportunity to be exposed and play against players from around the world at high levels, gain experience, confidence and progress in world rankings – without the need to travel abroad.To meet international standards for gaming, the tennis courts in the northern Israeli city have had to be refurbished at the cost of approximately NIS 100,000.The person behind the financing of this international competition is Dr. Eric Marshall, an ardent Zionist and a dentist from New York.This is the fourth time Dr. Marshall has sponsored the competition, with a collective contribution of $100,000 for the continuation of international competitions in Israel.“I especially like the ITC [Israeli Tennis Center], and Kiryat Shmona,” said Dr. Marshall.“My contribution has helped realize the vision and put the Kiryat Shmona on the global sports map.“My vision is to put Israeli tennis on the world map. We need to nurture young Israeli players, so that they can reach international level.” With the tournament being held outside of the center of the country, on Israel’s northern border, there are additional benefits, such as the opportunity for hundreds of youth to see firsthand how world-class games take place and learn how young professionals from around the world behave at tournaments.The aim of such competitions in Israel, in general – and in the periphery in particular – is to intensify the desire among young players who dream of becoming professionals tennis players.Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela – who at his peak was ranked No. 29 in the world in 2009 – started his career as a child in Kiryat Shmona.Three people are in charge of this competition: Yoni Zargary, Shaul Zohar and international tennis referee Dima Lyfman.Dozens of players from around the country signed up for the competition, including five players from the ITC in Kiryat Shmona.The seeds for the promotion of this competition were planted 15 years ago, when the family of Zohar, the director of ITC in Kiryat Shmona, hosted a young Jeffrey Marshall, for several years.Marshall was a ranked player in the US and Israel, and a true friendship bloomed between the two families, with love for Israel and tennis. And so, in 2011 the decision was made to bring the ITF international competition to the ITC in Kiryat Shmona.The mission also received help from mayor Nissim Malka, and together with the support and funding of Dr. Marshall, the competition was a great success.Players come from many countries: Hong Kong, USA , Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey, Portugal and many others.“Dr. Marshall’s special love for Israeli tennis and the city of Kiryat Shmona is what brought this vision to fruition, and put Kiryat Shmona on the world sport’s map,” said Shaul.