Sela has fallen 53 places in just six weeks and has effectively set himself back more than a year.
By ALLON SINAI
This was supposed to be Dudi Sela's year.
After finishing 2007 in the best form of his life and beginning 2008 at number 64 in the world, the 23-year-old was expected to finally realize his potential this year and cement his place among the globe's top-50 players.
On Monday, however, Sela dropped to 112th in the ATP rankings, his lowest position since last September.
By failing to defend the many ranking points he picked up at the end of last season, Sela has fallen 53 places in just six weeks and has effectively set himself back more than a year.
All the progress Dudi made in the last 18 months now counts for almost nothing, and his new ranking means he will begin 2009 in a very awkward position.
With just the world's top 104 players automatically clinching spots for the main draw of January's Australian Open, Sela will now, in all likelihood, need to play in the tournament's qualifiers and will have to win four matches just to reach the second round of the Grand Slam, as he did in 2008.
Sela will also have to qualify for much smaller ATP tournaments next year after failing to make the most of the automatic main draw entries he received to these events this past year.
In 22 top tier ATP tournaments this season, Sela only progressed past the second round twice, reaching the third round at the Masters Series event in Miami in March and progressing to the final of the Beijing tournament in September.
That week in China showed exactly what Dudi is capable of, and makes his recent demise all that more frustrating.
Sela swept aside world No. 5 David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo (16) and Rainer Schuettler (35) on consecutive days in Beijing, and in the final, came within one set of beating 8th ranked Andy Roddick to become the first Israeli in 15 years to win an ATP title.
His exquisite play in the Chinese capital proved once again that, indeed, Sela has the ability needed to compete with the world's top players, but his performance during the entire year showed that he lacks the consistency to become a leading player himself.
Sela's rollercoaster form will result in him playing far more second-tier Challenger tournaments than he would like in 2009 and leaves him with plenty of work to do to get his career back to the place it was 12 months ago.
At just 23, all is far from lost for Dudi, but even for him time is running out.
Unless he can play at his best on a regular basis he will never become a top-50 player and will sadly go down in history as just another wasted potential.
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