Ram and Erlich reach Aussie Open final

Duo have never reached the final of a grand slam tournament and had only got as far as the third round of the Australian Open in the past.

ram erlich 88 (photo credit: AP)
ram erlich 88
(photo credit: AP)
Andi Ram and Yoni Erlich (8) reached the final of the Australian Open doubles tournament Thursday after beating Indian Mahesh Bhupathi, and Mark Knowles from the Bahamas(6), 6-4, 6-4. The duo have never reached the final of a grand slam tournament and up until Wednesday, had only reached the third round of the Australian Open. In the final, they will face Frenchmen Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra (7). Ram and Erlich advanced to the semifinal after defeating Frenchmen Marc Gicquel and Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-1 in the last eight. Meanwhile, despite losing in the third round of the singles event, Shahar Pe'er continued to rewrite the Israeli sports history books on Wednesday, advancing to the final of the doubles tournament with partner Victoria Azarenka. Pe'er and Azarenka lost the first set 6-0 against No. 7 seeds Zi Yan and Jie Zheng and were only one point away from being knocked out of the tournament twice in the second set. The Israeli/Belarusian duo, however, dug deep, saving both match points on its way to a 7-5 victory in the second set. After a closely fought third set the match was decided on a tiebreaker and Pe'er and Azarenka completed a dramatic comeback with a 7-3 win. "Yan and Zheng played very well at the start of the match, but we always knew we had a chance, especially because we only lost to them after a very tight match earlier this season," Pe'er said on Wednesday. "We changed our tactics slightly in the second set, saved two match points and fortunately managed to complete a come back. They're excellent doubles players, but we were more aggressive in the third set tiebreak and I'm happy we won." The Israeli/Belarusian team, which is seeded 12th in the tournament, will next face the winner of Thursday's semifinal between Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko and No. 10 seeds Annabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. "This is a superb accomplishment," Pe'er said. "I've never been in a semifinal or final of a Grand Slam before and I hope we can carry this momentum into the final. The singles matches are still my priority, but it's always fun to be in a final, especially at a Grand Slam." Pe'er and Azarenka have only been a doubles team for a few weeks, but unsurprisingly the Israeli is extremely pleased with the way thing have gone thus far. "We are playing very well together and even more importantly we enjoy playing together," Pe'er said. "We've been friends for a while and I'm happy we're doing well. Both Vika and I are fighters and that always helps." Ram and Erlich matched Pe'er's achievement on Thursday when they beat No. 6 seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, who defeated No. 1 seeds Bob and Mike Bryan 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) on Wednesday. The Israeli duo, which is seeded eighth in Melbourne, dominated Gicquel and Santoro on Wednesday, converting four of its seven break points and only dropping serve once during the one hour and nine minute long encounter. Ram and Erlich, who reached the last four at Wimbledon in 2003, are also still both in the mixed doubles tournament with their respective partners . On Wednesday, Ram and Nathalie Dechy, who are seeded eighth, advanced to the semifinals defeating Yung-Jan Chan and Eric Butorac 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Erlich and Chia-Jung Chuang, who are seeded sixth, face No. 3 seeds Zi Yan and Mark Knowles in the quarterfinals on Thursday.