I’ve been trying to interview Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram the last couple of few weeks since they decided not to play in Dubai. In Australia, where they won their country’s first Grand Slam title, they sounded quite certain they were going to follow Shahar Peer’s historic appearance in Doha and become the first tennis players from Israel to compete in Persian Gulf. What happened?
I caught up with them in the players lounge but I didn’t get an answer. In fact, what they told me – or didn’t tell me – only deepened my interest. “At the moment we prefer not to talk about Dubai,” said Ram following their 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Paul-Henri Mathieu and Radek Stepanek. “We can say that we want to play there in the future, like we did this year. That’s all we can say.”
“It’s a very delicate issue,” added Erlich.
They said they had discussed Peer’s experience in Qatar, which was positive. “She told us she had a great time,” said Ram. “They treated her like a queen.” I pressed on, but neither would budge. Was it a security issue? A visa issue? Did the Israeli authorities or the ATP dissuade them from attending? Erlich said their mandatory military service taught them to keep information to themselves. “Too many years in the army, so we learned to keep our information,” he said. “We need to keep it vague right now. Next year we will definitely try to go there.”
Another top doubles player told me he didn’t know the reason they backed off but said he had heard the ATP asked them not to go when the looked into it previously. They promised to have more answers in a few weeks or months. Stay tuned for more on this.