Heavy Dudi: Sela storms into fourth round, makes history

Wimbledon 2009
By Matthew Zemek, June 27th, 2009

dudi-selaNot since 1992 had an Israeli man reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam. After Friday evening’s action at the All England Club, a 17-year drought is over, thanks to Dudi Sela.

Ranked 46th in the world but sure to rise up the ladder in coming weeks, Sela delighted Jewish tennis fans everywhere by reaching the fourth round of a major tournament for the first time in his career. When he ousted 15th-seeded Tommy Robredo in the third round at the Big W, Sela made a little bit of history for himself and his country. The 7-6 (8), 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 win on Court 3 allowed Sela to become the first Israeli on the ATP Tour to reach the round of 16 at a slam since Amos Mansdorf turned the trick at the 1992 Australian Open. A series of emotional fist pumps to the crowd, in the moments following his exhilarating triumph, showed just how much this occasion meant to the 24-year-old who currently lives in Tel Aviv. Just as significantly, the display of elation was a product of the determination Sela exhibited throughout the duration of this match.

Sela didn’t dominate this battle so much as he owned every truly significant sequence. A riveting first-set tiebreak stayed on serve for the first eight points, and remained knotted as the tension on the court escalated… 5-all, 6-all, 7-all, 8-all… and when the dust had settled, the player with the “Heavy Dudi” artillery managed to shoot down his Spanish counterpart. The 10-8 tiebreak not only gave Sela an early lead; it fueled his confidence and set a tone for the rest of the proceedings. At 6-5 in the second set, just about everyone in the arena was expecting a tiebreak, but Sela-like any elite player manages to do-made a big push for a break and succeeded to take the second set in its 12th and final game. Robredo would cruise to the third set and then gain a 5-3 lead in the fourth, but with the first two sets lodged firmly in the back of his mind, Sela never doubted in his abilities come crunch time.

The Israeli upstart held easily for 4-5, and then-with the set hanging in the balance-broke Robredo to get back on level terms. After consolidating the break to grab a 6-5 lead, Sela pounced on the Spaniard in Robredo’s next service game, and before anyone could believe what had transpired, Sela-winning four straight games precisely when his fortunes were flagging-marched into the second week of a slam singles tournament for the first time in his professional life.

The first week of a major championship might not bring out the A-list celebrities or generate through-the-roof television ratings-especially on a weekday-but the early rounds of Grand Slam competitions definitely unearth the special stories that make this sport so compelling for those who pay attention. Roger Federer and Andy Murray might own the spotlight in the week to come. After the first five days of the 2009 Wimbledon Championships, it’s hard to identify a story any better than the one authored by Dudi Sela.


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