Local tennis got a boost over the weekend as 12-year-old Yshai Oliel made history in becoming the first Israeli to win the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship at Coral Gables, Florida, for his age group. The long-haired Hebrew-speaking tennis player beat Patrick Sydow of Aruba, 6-3, 6-1, to take the trophy.
Oliel joins the likes of Jimmy Connors, Andy Murray, Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles, all former winners of the international competition.
“I’m really happy and excited by what’s happened,” Oliel said after the final. “The enormity of this achievement hasn’t sunk in yet. From my perspective, this is only the beginning.”
Oliel, who hails from Ramle, started his tennis career at five years of age. He is considered one of Israel’s top young gunners.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called to congratulate the left-hander on his win.
“This was a great achievement for Yshai, and I’m really proud of him. It’s been a long process that began eight years ago, and I’m glad it’s reached this point,” said Jan Pochter, Oliel’s coach. “We are all really excited and hope that further achievements will follow. We’ve had hundreds of phone calls, including from the prime minister.”
In 2001, Israel’s Shahar Peer won the event in the Girls ’14 category. She said the seventh grader’s achievement should catapult him to a “bright future.”