Duty comes first
by Angus Morgan
Monday, 15 January, 2007
As if trying to get established on the world tennis Tour is not tough enough, imagine having to juggle your responsibilities as a citizen by completing national service at the same time.
That's the task that confronts the Israeli players on Tour and, judging by their first round results on Monday at Australian Open 2007, their civic duties have been a positive influence on two of the four Israelis competing at Melbourne Park, journeyman Dudi Sela and women's No.16 seed Shahar Peer.
Competing in just his second Grand Slam tournament, Sela, who finished 2006 at No.240 in the men's rankings, summarily disposed of No.53-ranked Paradorn Srichapan of Thailand, while Peer completed a regulation 6-1 6-3 first round victory over Romina Oprandi of Italy.
In his only other Grand Slam tournament appearance at the 2005 French Open, Sela had the misfortune to be drawn to play Roger Federer, someone the 21-year-old describes as 'Superman, not a tennis player'.
Needless to say, Sela's stay at Roland Garros was short - he went out in straight sets 6-1 6-4 6-0 - but 20 months on, the modest and quietly-spoken Sela made the most of his second chance against Srichapan on a surface he enjoys.
"I played solid and every point I played the same," Sela said of his victory.
"I think he was injured a little bit in his wrist. I tried to play long points because I could see that he was not at his best."
"Last year I was injured for four months with a broken elbow so my ranking dropped, but I am looking to get into the top 100, that's my next aim."
Like all Israeli citizens, Sela was required to complete his basic military training as soon as he turned 18, but as an elite athlete, he had the option of entering a community service program as an alternative to military service.
He only recently completed his compulsory three-year stint, putting-in 100-hours of work annually with schoolchildren and disabled athletes.