Sinai says: After weathering severe injury storm, Weintraub eyes brighter days

Weintraub was a top-200 player before the injury and is currently ranked at No. 438 in the world after dropping as low as No. 623.

Amir Weintraub (photo credit: OFRA FRIEDMAN, ITA)
Amir Weintraub
(photo credit: OFRA FRIEDMAN, ITA)
Amir Weintraub will never forget the last time Israel played Slovenia in the Davis Cup.
More than 15 months later, he is still struggling with the repercussions.
What initially seemed like a minor injury ended up completely derailing his career. An MRI revealed that three tendons had torn away from a bone in his groin and he had to go under the knife twice, with the initial surgery proving to be unsuccessful.
A long rehabilitation process followed and Weintraub ended up being out of action for nine months.
The 28-year-old suffered the injury in a win over Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic and after missing the blue-and-white’s past two ties, he will be back in Davis Cup action next weekend when Israel hosts the Slovenians at the Drive-In Arena in Tel Aviv.
Without Weintraub, Israel lost 3-2 to Argentina in the World Group playoffs last September before being thrashed 5-0 by Romania in the first round of Europe/Africa Zone Group I in March.
For the first time since 2006, Israel lost in the first round of Group I and a defeat to Slovenia will result in a tie against relegation to Group II later this year.
A win is clearly vital for Israel, and the blue-and-white will be a firm favorite to triumph next weekend, with the Slovenians to travel without their top two players, Blaz Rola, ranked No. 93 in the world, and Blaz Kavcic (107). Grega Zemlja (298) will be Slovenia’s No. 1, with the rest of the squad not even being ranked in the top 1,000.
That should allow Weintraub to ease his way back into Davis Cup action as he continues his recovery from a career-threatening injury.
“I feel 90 percent fit. But overall this is a massive improvement on how I was feeling beforehand and so far it is showing in my results,” Weintraub told The Jerusalem Post. “It is always exciting to represent your country. I’ve been waiting a long time to play in front of our fans. Finally, we are playing a tie in Israel and I’m happy to be making my Davis Cup return at home.”
The last time a Davis Cup tie was played in Israel was back in April 2012, when the blue-and-white hosted Portugal.
Weintraub lost his first match back after the long injury layoff in a third-tier Futures tournament in Ramat Hasharon in March, but has gone on to win four Futures titles in Israel since.
Thanks to his protected ranking as a result of his extended absence, Weintraub was handed a place in the Roland Garros and Wimbledon qualifiers, only to lose in the first round on both occasions.
Weintraub was a top-200 player before the injury and is currently ranked at No. 438 in the world after dropping as low as No. 623.
When Harel Levy and Noam Okun both retired more than four years ago there was an understandable concern regarding who would take up the mantle as the Davis Cup team’s No. 2 singles player behind Dudi Sela.
Levy and Okun played important parts in Israel’s return to the World Group after 14 years in 2008 and helped the side record one of the greatest feats in Israeli sports history the following year, with the blue-and-white progressing all the way to the semifinals of the prestigious competition before losing to defending champion Spain.
Weintraub stepped into their shoes in March 2011, with Israel captain Eyal Ran simply not having any other reasonable option.
Weintraub has amassed a sensational record since, losing only two of nine meaningful singles matches, with almost all his wins coming against higher ranked players.
Weintraub was ranked just 257th when he beat Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, ranked over 100 places above him, in a dream Davis Cup debut in March 2011.
He defeated Canada’s Milos Raonic, ranked over 150 places in front of him, in the World Group playoffs in September 2011 and exceeded expectations once more when he overcame Portugal’s Rui Machado, ranked 98 places higher, to help Israel to a 3-2 victory.
He almost singlehandedly lifted the national team back to the World Group in Tokyo in 2012, overcoming two top-70 players in three days by dominating Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito, who were both ranked over 150 places ahead of him.
Weintraub is no stranger to adversity, almost retiring in 2009 after growing fed up with asking his parents for money to sponsor his dream.
However, his eventual decision to give professional tennis one more shot has paid off spectacularly, although he has had to endure plenty more heartache on the way, in particular over the past year.
“I was sure it was something minor and had no clue it would end up being like this,” said Weintraub. “I never thought about retiring. I didn’t know if I would be able to be the same as I was beforehand, but I didn’t consider retiring.”
Despite Slovenia’s weakened squad, Weintraub is taking nothing for granted.
“Only their No. 1 player is of a high level,” he said. “I’m here to work and give my all and hopefully it will do. You never know and every match will be a battle.
“I haven’t played at this level for a long time,” he added. “I played some Futures tournaments and won some, but it isn’t the same as playing against these players. I need to step up and fight.”
Weintraub knows he will likely never feel the same physically as he did before the injury, but he believes he can return to his best and even go on to achieve greater success than ever before.
“Of course I want to get back to where I was and then climb higher as soon as possible, hopefully this year,” he said. “Over the last month I had some good results and I hope to get back to my best soon. I’m playing well and all in all I feel good. My leg isn’t what it used to be, but I’m learning to play within my limitations.”
The greatest moments of Weintraub’s career have come in the Davis Cup.
With the groin injury still fresh in his mind and with an under-strength Slovenia being the opponent, he is unlikely to record another momentous memory next weekend. However, if he is just able to use the tie as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, it will be as significant as any he has played in his career.