Pe'er hoping for success at National Championships
Pe'er saw her 184 ranking at the start of the year skyrocket all the way up to 45.
By DAVID WISEMAN
The Israel Tennis Championships get under way in Ra'anana tomorrow. The national titles which began in 1948 is the most prestigious event in Israeli tennis and competition will be fierce.
In the men's side of the draw, Dudi Sela is the favorite. Ranked 170 in the world he is the top seed and is looking forward to doing well.
"I am very excited to be playing in this tournament and hope to walk down the court on Friday with the title," he said.
Coming off a great 2005 where he won three titles, Sela will be the player to beat.
The second seed is 624th ranked Ishay Hadash. Third seed is Dekel Valtzer who has a world ranking of 652.
On the women's side, the overwhelming favorite is Shahar Pe'er.
The young Israeli had a great 2005 which saw her 184 ranking at the start of the year skyrocket all the way up to 45.
Pe'er is optimistic about her chances. "I am very happy to be playing here and will do my best to win the title," she said.
"It will be great to play before a home crowd and Ra'anana is a great place to play at."
Pe'er even took some time off during the year so she could do her army service. She said: "It was basic training and I had a great time for the two and a half weeks I was there.
"It definitely was a great experience."
Second seed is the defending champion, Tzipi Obziler who brings in a ranking of 132 to the tournament.
Obziler, who lost to Pe'er in last year's final, is likewise upbeat about her own chances. "I hope to play well and to defend my title," she said. "I hope to play like I did last year." Obziler defeated Pe'er in last year's final.
Pe'er won as a 14 year old in 2001 and also in 2003. Obziler won in 2000 as well as 2004.
For outgoing Israel Tennis Association chairman Ian Froman the championships are the final chapter of what has been a great year for Israeli tennis.
"The tournament is the culmination of a pretty good year and it it good to see the kids doing pretty well," he enthused. "These championships will give us the opportunity to see which up and coming players are up to the grade and to display their worth. This should be a great week of Israeli tennis."
Froman has seen his two year term come to an end, and while not pursuing another one is definitely going to be staying involved.
"The chairmanship is an all encompassing role," he said. "This way I can concentrate on the things I am good at, such as tournaments, public relations and fund raising."
Froman is leaving the position with Israeli tennis in great shape.
"Facilities and resources are on the up and up and the desire by foreign players to play in Israel has never been greater," he concluded.
After the championships many of the players will head to Australia for tournaments in the southern hemisphere the beginning of next year.