He was the first Israeli to reach a finals event at Wimbledon. He also made a semifinal.
What’s next for Andy Ram?
More of the same at the U.S. Open, says Israel’s rising tennis star. Maybe a championship.
Following his historic success at London’s prestigious tennis tournament: he and Croatian Anastassia Rodionova lost the mixed doubles finals to Leander Paes and Martina Navratilova; he and fellow Israeli Yoni Erlich dropped their men’s doubles semifinal match to a Swedish-Australian duo, and following a series of subsequent successes (doubles victories in Indianapolis and Binghamton, and in a Davis Cup match in Israel) Ram finds himself moving up in prestige and world ranking on the eve of the U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam competition of the year, which begins Monday in Flushing, Queens.
"I’m playing with confidence: I believe in myself," the 23-year-old native of Uruguay tells The Jewish Week. Although he won’t be seeded among the favorites in doubles play at Flushing (now ranked 52nd in the world in his specialty, he’s still outside of the top 16) he and his partners will be expected to win at least a few matches, he says.
By next summer’s Wimbledon, Ram says, he hopes to achieve a top-10 ranking among the world’s doubles players. "My game is serve and volley. I love coming to the net. I have a good backhand, one of the best on the tour: my opinion."
His world singles ranking is still a mediocre 571.
Ram, whose original first name is Andres, is 5-11 and 185 pounds. He began playing tennis at 6, a year after his parents (his father, an emissary for the Jewish Agency, married a native Uruguayan) moved back to Israel. "I was always the best at my age," he says.
After lessons at the Israeli Tennis Center, training at the Wingate Institute for elite athletes and army service, he joined the pro tennis tour, had knee and back surgery three years ago, slowly moved up in the rankings, attended a tennis camp in Brazil earlier this year, and emerged physically and mentally tougher.
He was "a little bit" surprised by his showing at Wimbledon. "It was a good experience. It was a big experience for Israel."
The Wimbledon results of Ram and Erlich, which earned them a spot on Israel’s "Olympic Gold Squad" and a monthly $1,100 in training grants, allows them to enter major tournaments without playing in qualifying rounds.
Now Ram is recognized on the streets of Israel, a tennis star like Russian-born Anna Smashnova Pistolesi, who won two recent singles titles. Abroad, there are more Jewish fans. "They cheer. They come for autographs."
Now, he says, prospective doubles partners seek him out.
Ram is getting the notoriety that Israel’s Amir Haddad got last year after teaming with a Muslim, Pakistan’s Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi, at Wimbledon. Ram calls Haddad one of his best friends, but adds, "It’s better to be known because you are winning."
His souvenirs from Wimbledon are "a silver plate and a small medal," for his finals and semifinals appearances.
Ram says he has loftier ambitions at Flushing. "I want to bring back gold."