Dudi’s mind finally catching up to his game

All-England Notebook: The consistency needed to become a truly top player has eluded Sela to date, mainly because of what goes on in between his ears.

Dudi Sela at Wimbledon 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Dudi Sela at Wimbledon 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
There has never been any doubt regarding Dudi Sela’s god-given talent.
Were tennis a game of skill and dexterity alone, Sela would never have to worry about dropping out of the world’s top-50.
When everything falls into place, Sela’s game is a true delight to behold.
The problem, however, has always been that things seem to fall into place all-too-rarely for the 26-year-old Israeli.
At least so far in his career.
Sela has been in and out of the world’s top-100 four times since he first broke into the ATP’s elite in October 2007, reaching a career-high of No. 29 in July 2009, but also dropping as low as No. 147 just last month.
The consistency needed to become a truly top player has eluded Sela to date, mainly because of what goes on in between his ears.
However, recent decisions, both on and off the court, give real reason for optimism that Sela is finally close to mastering the psychological aspect of the game.
His current form may still not be at the peak levels of the past, but mentally he has never been better.
After winning just two of 10 matches on the ATP Tour in the first four months of the year, Sela took the difficult decision to play on the Challenger circuit.
Playing in dusty and often empty arenas in places like Fergana, Uzbekistan for prize money which just about covers your expenses even if you win the event is something no player enjoys.
But Sela understood that he needed competitive matches to hone his game and he got plenty of those by winning the Challenger titles at Busan, South Korea, Fergana, Uzbekistan and on the grass at Nottingham, England last week.
With his 15 straight wins, Sela not only jumped 66 places in six weeks to No. 81 – before dropping to No. 84 on Monday – but also picked up much-needed confidence after his dismal start to the year.
“I dropped in the rankings so I decided not to play on clay,” Sela said. “I played Challengers on hard courts and it was very good for me. I think I made a good decision to focus on getting back in the top 100 and now I’m thinking of going even further.
“I have few points to defend in the rest of the year and every match is a bonus for my rankings.
“Financially it’s better to play tour events, but I needed some wins.
“I went to play the Challengers thinking of confidence and points and not of the financial side.”
Sela was disappointed with Wednesday’s second-round loss to Gilles Simon, but nevertheless believes that bigger and better things are yet to come.
“I think I’m playing my best mentally but not tennis-wise yet,” Sela said.
“Now I’m around No. 80 and don’t have many points to defend so hopefully I can get back to the top-50 by the end of the year.”