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US Open golf champ inspired by Israeli tennis star ex-girlfriend

Matt Fitzpatrick said in March he called Deniz Khazaniuk to ask about her family in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion; what she had to say changed his sporting mindset

Matthew Fitzpatrick, of England, poses with the trophy after winning the US Open golf tournament at The Country Club, in Brookline, Mass., June 19, 2022. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Matthew Fitzpatrick, of England, poses with the trophy after winning the US Open golf tournament at The Country Club, in Brookline, Mass., June 19, 2022. (Julio Cortez/AP)

The British golfer who won the US Open over the weekend has said in the past he was inspired to change his attitude to the game this year by a startling phone call with his Israeli ex-girlfriend tennis star who told him about the suffering of her family in Ukraine.

Matt Fitzpatrick, 27, said that he called Deniz Khazaniuk in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK Daily Mail newspaper reported in March.

Khazaniuk’s family is from Lviv and her parents immigrated to Israel. A former professional tennis player, Khazaniuk was born in Ashkelon and grew up in Netanya.

Fitzpatrick said he picked up the phone to Khazaniuk and was moved by what she had to say.

“She was telling me about her gran who had a couple of strokes recently and can hardly walk, so she can’t go anywhere,” he said. “Then she told me about her uncle who had just packed his bags and was off to fight tomorrow.”

“I was sitting there in Florida ready to practise and it hit me, the contrast between the fact he might never come back and what I do,” he continued.

“I’d already decided to be a little easier on myself this year and appreciate all that I have but that phone call just emphasized I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life worrying about winning golf tournaments.

“I think 100 percent I’ve got too worked up about them in the past,” he explained. “The people around me say that I’m different in a major week and while I can’t see it myself it’s something that I need to work on. I feel that I’m a different player now to 2015-18, so hopefully I can relax in the majors and it will start to show.”

That change in mindset appeared to bear fruit when on Sunday Fitzpatrick defeated Will Zalatoris in a close contest to take the coveted open title.

Winner of 10K$ Herzelia !! Great week,hope the next one will be better !

Posted by Deniz Khazaniuk on Sunday, June 9, 2013

Though she in no longer playing tennis professionally, Khazaniuk was once ranked 200 in the world and won the Israeli Singles Championship in 2016, as well as other international contests. She is currently studying at Barry University in Florida, where she plays on the school team that won the 2021 NCAA Division II Women’s Tennis Tournament, the Daily Mail reported on Sunday.

She was last seen publicly with Fitzpatrick in 2020 and it is not known when or why they broke up, according to the Mail.

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