Twelve-year-old Yishai Oliel staked a claim to a stellar tennis future Sunday by wining the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl tennis tournament in Coral Gables, Florida. Many top world players first showed their promise by winning the tournament.
Oliel took home the gold when he defeated Patrick Sydow of Aruba in the final round, 6:3, 6:1.
Throughout the tournament, Oliel seemed to have very little trouble with any of the competition. Through his first three matches he dropped a total of two games, and lost only one set in the tournament — in his semi-final match.
For Oliel, a left-handed hitter from Ramle, this was the fourth international he has won this year. He has been a finalist in three other tournaments and a semi-finalist four times.
Oliel was quoted on the Israel Tennis Association website as saying that he has not yet grasped the enormity of this victory. “This is just the beginning,” Oliel promised.
His coach, Jan Pochter, said he was “looking forward to many more accomplishments” by the rising star.
Many of the world’s top players are on the list of previous winners of the Junior Orange Bowl: Jimmy Connors (1964) and Andy Murray (1999) were winners in the “Boys 12 & Under” competition; Steffi Graf (1981), Monica Seles (1985) and Jennifer Capriati (1986) won the “Girls 12 & Under” tournaments.
In 2001, Israeli Shahar Peer won the “Girls 14 & Under” competition. Ten years later, Peer peaked with a career-best world ranking of 11 — the highest ranking ever achieved by an Israeli singles tennis player, male or female.
After Oliel’s victory on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to congratulate him. “You are a true champion,” the prime minister told him. “You brought honor to the State of Israel and pride to your parents.”