Next generation of Israeli tennis meets in New York

Watching Shahar Pe'er at US Open is a dream come true for the youngsters.

Kids at US open (photo credit: Howard Blas)
Kids at US open
(photo credit: Howard Blas)
NEW YORK – For Gony Goldstein, Raz Moyal, and Dana Kamyshev, cheering for Shahar Pe’er on Court Four at her first-round US Open match was only one highlight of their week-long America tennis adventure.
The three young Israel tennis players, ages nine, 11 and 13, in the US as part of an Israel Children’s Centers tennis exhibition, enthusiastically cheered on Pe’er in her match against Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia.
“Yaalah,” “Kadima, Shahar,” “Go Pe’er!” they shouted from the stands on this sunny, 33-degree day.
When Peer was down 3-2 in the second set, a very confident Raz said, “Shahar will beat her – you will see.”
Raz was right.
Despite some early serving difficulties and missed volleys, Peer rallied to beat the slicing Kostantic Tosic 6-4, 7-5.
“Shahar is my favorite,” reports Dana, who plays in a competitive tennis program at the Tennis Center in Haifa.
“I like her strong character – she doesn’t give up. I remember once she was down 5-0 and came back to win.”
Goni, who lives in Tel Aviv and players regularly at the Israel Tennis Center in South Tel Aviv, is struck by how “everything in America is so big.”
Goni loves Pe’er and adds, “I also love Roddick, Sharapova, Davydenko and Venus Williams,” the knowledgeable nine-year-old reports.
Goni was initially spotted by the same coach who recognized Pe’er’s potential, and she has even hit tennis balls with Pe’er.
Raz Moyal, from Ofakim, was jealous of his brother, who got to play tennis. One day, his father offered him the chance to play.
“It was very fun,” noted Raz, who diplomatically claimed Pe’er is his favorite player. “I just love her, she is a very good player.”
But the smiley youngster adds, “I also love Nadal, he is short like me, he is a lefty like me, and I look like him. People call me Nadal.”
This group of young tennis players, representing three of Israel’s fourteen tennis centers, was accompanied by coach Ron Becker, Israel Children’s Center Executive Director Jeff Dannick, and Israeli Development Associate Yoni Yair.
They returned home to Israel late Monday night and would not be around to cheer on Israel’s Dudi Sela, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich.
Sela will play singles later in the week, and Ram and Erlich, doubles partners before Erlich’s elbow injury, will play against each other in doubles in the first round of the US Open.
In an interview following a doubles match at last week’s Pilot Pen Tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, Ram shared his thoughts on the future of Israeli tennis.
“After Amos Mansdorf, there was a 10-year hole.
Then came Pe’er, Sela, Erlich and me. We played at the Israel Tennis Centers for many years. I played in Ramat HaSharon. We are in the process of building the next generation of Israeli tennis players. It will come and there will be Israeli tennis.”
Dannick points to a number of 7-through-12-yearold “up and comers” in Israel, and he draws special attention to 14 year old Valeria Patiuk, currently ranked 330th in the world for juniors, and to 15-yearold Igor Smilansky, ranked No. 747 in the world.
“The combination of skills and size is hard to come by–these two have both,” reports Dannick, who notes, “Israel has six or seven of the top 1,000 men in the world and three or four of the top 1,000 women in the world.”
Israelis, Jews around the world, and die-hard tennis fans will spend the next two weeks watching Pe’er, Sela, Ram and Erlich (Noam Okun and Harel Levy played in the qualifiers for the US Open but failed to earn a spot in the main draw) and wonder about the future of Israeli tennis.
Gony, Raz and Dana might represent exactly that.