Tennis: Dudi Sela claims first national title

Comes back to beat No. 1 seed Okun in final; Pe'er blanks Glushko.

tennis racket 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tennis racket 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dudi Sela (above) tracks down the ball during the men's singles final at the Israel tennis championships in Ra'anana on Friday. Sela beat Noam Okun 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4). Also Friday, Shahar Pe'er (right) defeated Julia Glushko 6-0, 6-0 in the women's singles final. (Asaf Kliger) Dudi Sela claimed his first national championship on Friday afternoon, outlasting No. 1 seed Noam Okun 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) at the Ra'anana tennis center. The 21-year-old Sela, who is ranked 202 in the world, has long been touted as Israel's future male tennis star and his first national title is a good omen ahead of the 2007 season. Sela, who was down a set and a break and was two points away from defeat at one point, is long overdue for a breakthrough year and the next 12 months will be crucial in his tennis career. "In the last couple of months, I've played very good tennis," Sela said after the final. "I won several futures tournaments and I hope I can maintain this form into next year. My goal [for 2007] is to be the top Israeli player and to close in on the world's top 100." Shahar Pe'er (20) schooled 16-year-old Julia Glushko (893) 6-0, 6-0, in the women's singles final, winning her third national championship and first since 2003. Pe'er, still 19 herself, was never in danger of even losing a game against Glushko with her superior skill clearly evident throughout the match. "It was very important to me to win this title," Pe'er said after the match. "I was ready for this match and I think Glushko suffered a little from playing a tough semifinal on Thursday." Okun (178) was the sharper player at the start of the men's final and after splitting the first six games, finally got a break of serve. The top seed held on to his service games and closed out the set 6-3. Sela was still reeling from losing the first set when he dropped his first service game in the second set and gave Okun an early break. However, the No. 2 seed came back from a 3-1 deficit, breaking in the eighth and 12th game to claim the set 7-5 and tie the match. Okun, who was hoping to win his first national championship in eight years, broke Sela once more at the start of the third set, but failed to hold his own service game and was broken back immediately (1-1). They split the next eight games, but Okun got what seemed to be a crucial break of serve in the 11th game and took a 30-0 lead in the subsequent game. However, Sela fought back from the brink of defeat and won the 12th game of the third set and sent the final to a decisive tiebreak. Sela began the breaker well and took a 5-2 lead. Okun won the next two points, but two unforced errors in the next two points gifted Sela the breaker and his first national title. "We both played well throughout the entire match and it's a pity I didn't take advantage of my opportunities," Okun said. "This was my best game of the tournament and I played good aggressive tennis. I'll be back next year to try and win the title once again." The women's final, which was played before the men's final, lacked the drama of the later game as Pe'er dominated throughout. The No 1 seed broke to love in the sixth game of the match to take the first set and broke once more six games later to secure the title. Glushko, who failed to show any of the form that saw her defeat No. 2 seed Tzipi Obziler (112) in the semifinals.