Sinai Says: Israeli need to help athletes exposed

Tennis star almost called it quits in 2009 after growing fed up with asking his parents for money to sponsor his dream.

Amir Weintraub 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Amir Weintraub 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Rosh Hashana is the time of the year for introspection in every aspect of life.
This space may be far from big enough to list all the sins of Israeli sports and all that needs to be put right in the coming year.
But you would be hard-pressed to find a sporting transgression as severe as that which pushed Amir Weintraub to the brink of retirement three years ago.
Weintraub, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Sunday, was never a potential Grand Slam winner and he may not even possess the talent to become a top-50 player.
However, considering his performances in the Davis Cup since he began representing Israel last year – and especially over the past weekend in the 3-2 victory over Japan – there is little doubt he should have been earning a living as a top-100 player long ago.
Instead, he almost called it quits in 2009 after growing fed up with asking his parents for money to sponsor his dream.
Weintraub began coaching kids to make ends meet, but coach Shlomo Zoreff persuaded him to give the professional tour one more chance.
He heeded his call, but his career has yet to take off.
Weintraub reached a careerhigh No. 161 in the world rankings in May of last year, but dropped to No. 223 last week before climbing nine places to 214 on Monday following his two victories in Tokyo.
Not only did Weintraub beat two top-70 players in three days, dominating Go Soeda (52) and Tatsuma Ito (67) for large periods of their encounters, but he also did so with a delightful style of tennis which should have resulted in a far more successful career to date.
The lack of financial support from the sporting establishment in Israel and the absence of a commercial sponsor not only irreversibly hampered Weintraub’s growth as a player, but also continues to hinder his progress until this day.
In his desperation, Weintraub turned earlier this summer to the World Team Tennis league in the United States, which offers significant economic rewards.
He spent three weeks in July playing for the Springfield Lasers in matches that are often more like exhibition encounters than professional ones, with former players of the likes of John McEnroe and Martina Hingis also participating in the league.
Unfortunately for Weintraub, the Lasers failed to make it to the semifinals, meaning he missed out on a $30,000 bonus he could have really used.
Nevertheless, he hopes to return to the WTT next year, with second-year players earning far more than rookies.
We will never know what Weintraub might have achieved had he been given sufficient backing over the past decade.
But that is all in the past.
The real depressing part is that Weintraub currently doesn’t even have the foundation he requires to realize his potential for the remainder of his career.
That is something Israeli sports can scarcely afford.
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