Israel isn’t known for producing world-class tennis players. Shahar Peer at No. 120 is the highest-ranked female player from the small Middle Eastern country.
You’ve probably never even heard of Dudi Sela, who at No. 85 is Israel’s top-rated man.But the Israel Tennis Centers every year are giving more than 20,000 Israeli children dreams of one day playing at Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Or just hope.
Israeli visitors from the Israel Tennis Centers put on an exhibition last month for about 70 guests on a tennis court in the backyard of a private residence on Sullivan’s Island. Many of the area’s leading pros attended the festive event and lawn party.
The list of locals included former College of Charleston standout/current Mount Pleasant Rec pro Or Dekel, a Haifa, Israel, native who grew up in the ITC program
and reached a high of No. 316 in the world. Dekel credits much of his success to the ITC program.
In addition to the four children who traveled from Israel for the U.S. summer tour and Dekel, the Sullivan’s Island exhibition also featured former Porter-Gaud star Seth Pinosky and several local juniors.
“Through the discipline of tennis the Israel Tennis Centers strive to improve the lives of children in one of the most conflicted regions of the world,” opens the mission statement of the ITC, which was founded in 1976 and has 14 centers spread across Israel serving underprivileged neighborhoods. The ITC is open to all children in Israel, regardless of background, religious affiliation or economic circumstance.
“It was a highlight to come back to Sullivan’s Island … Our last event (here) took place in 1991,” said Yoni Yair, the Israeli Development Director for Israel Tennis Centers.
“We have raised a significant amount of money (from the exhibition on Sullivan’s Island) which will have a huge impact on our children and programs in Israel. We do hope to come back in 2016 so we can continue to establish our name and raise more funds to benefit our cause.”
Shelby Rogers has entered a critical period in her life as a touring tennis professional. She is nursing an injured right knee that will sideline her for an undetermined length of time. Shahar Peer (file/ap)
“I tore my MCL, but I don’t need surgery, thank goodness,” Rogers said Friday. “It’s getting much better. I tried to play Wimby (Wimbledon) and do the best I could.
“But now I will take time to rehab and get 100 percent healthy. (It’s) hard to say how long it will take, but I will take as much time as I need to make sure I am absolutely ready to play.”
The injury three weeks ago in qualifying at Birmingham, England, came at an inopportune time for the 22-year-old Rogers. She failed to win a game against 14th-ranked Andrea Petkovic of Germany in the first round at Wimbledon.
Coming up in two weeks will be the tournament in Bad Gastein, Austria, where Rogers was a finalist in 2014.
“Unfortunately I won’t be playing Bad Gastein this year … great memories there for me,” she said.
The 198 points Rogers earned last year at Bad Gastein (of her current total of 734 points) will rotate off the WTA’s computer rankings on July 27. If Rogers is unable to replace some of the 198 points, she would be projected to drop approximately 25 positions below her current 84th ranking.
U.S. team falls short
Diane Barker and the women’s 55 U.S. team failed in their bid to win a fourth straight Maureen Connolly Cup for the USTA, losing to Great Britain in La Baule, France. Former world’s No. 1 senior Barker did not participate in the world singles championships due to a hand injury.
More than 100 kids and adults showed up for new city pro Davy Hairston’s fun-filled (food-filled, too) free Charleston Tennis Center/Tour Tennis Fourth of July Carnival. The facility’s soon-to-be resurfaced 15 courts were still crowded under midday’s 90-degree temperatures.
Reach James Beck at [email protected] See his latest columns on Wimbledon and Grand Slam Tennis at www.ubitennis.com/english/tag/james-beck