Words from the Wise: Tennis, cricket rock sports-crazy Australia

2005 was a red-letter year for Israeli tennis and it looks as though the players are continuing in 2006.

ram erlich 88 (photo credit: )
ram erlich 88
(photo credit: )
Being in Australia at this time of year, one of the things you notice besides the beaches, the blowflies, and the bushfires is the sport. Sport is somewhat of a religion in Australia with Melbourne the arch-diocese. Every sport here is followed avidly. Currently cricket is underway in earnest as are preparations for the Australian Open. Tennis's first grand slam of the year is a big deal. In years gone by, many of the sport's‚ biggest drawcards weren't so keen in heading to the other side of the world so early in the year but that isn't the case this year. Up and down the eastern seaboard, tennis warm-up events are taking place. 2005 was a red-letter year for Israeli tennis and it looks as though the players are continuing in 2006 from where they left off. Doubles tandem, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich were victorious in the doubles at the season-opening event in Adelaide. The duo played flawless tennis the whole week and more importantly snapped their four-match losing streak in finals. The Medibank International which is taking place in Sydney this week, will be a good test where the Israeli pair is at. It is a very strong field with Ram and Erlich having to play the all French pairing of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra first up. Three hundred kilometers away in Canberra, Shahar Pe'er is one match away from her first ever singles semifinal. Pe'er has been in good form thus far and the fourth seed hasn't lost a set in her two matches. What will fill Pe'er with confidence is that she has never lost to Aiko Nakamura, her quarterfinal opponent. The two have met twice before with Pe'er winning both times, the most recent being 12 months ago in Auckland, New Zealand. Pe'er made tremendous strides in the last year taking her ranking from 183 at the start of the year to 45 by the end of it. She will have to work even harder if she wishes to break the top-20 and by the looks of things she is headed in that direction. In 2005, Pe'er played in five quarterfinals without winning a single one. Success today will set her year off on the right track. If Pe'er would cast her eye on the names on the honor roll for the tournament she would see countrywomen, Anna Smashnova who was victorious in 2002. Despite being plagued by injury and illness, which shortened her season, Smashnova was able to maintain her ranking of 40 for the year Her 2006 hasn't begun as well, with the third seed losing in the first round at Hobart. Hopefully she can turn it around by the Australian Open where she has done quite well. Apart from tennis, cricket is the sport which hogs most of the back pages around the country. With the Test matches over, attention turns to the limited-over colored clothing cricket which is played under lights. Sri Lanka joins South Africa and Australia in the triangular competition. In 26 days, the teams play a breakneck 12 games in six states. There is a game roughly every 2-3 days with the players spending as much time over that time in airport lounges as they do on the cricket field. One of the quirks of this tournament will be the use of the Telstra Dome in Melbourne as a venue due to the unavailability of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The home of the 1956 Olympics is busy being renovated for this year's Commonwealth Games. The 18th installment of the Games, which were formerly known as the Empire Games, begin in March and for just the fourth time are taking place in Australia. Outside of the Commonwealth countries the games are not that well known, but 71 nations will be competing in 16 sports. In Melbourne they are very excited about the games coming, but then again they are excited about anything to do with sport. [email protected]