THE men’s singles draw is the most likely arena for success by Jewish players at this year’s Australian Open, which starts on January 20.
For the first time, two Jewish men have risen to the top 15 in the world rankings – 20-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov (13th) and 27-year-old Argentine Diego Schwartzman (14th).
Israeli-born left-hander Shapovalov is in the form of his young career.
He won his first ATP title in October 2019 – the Stockholm Open – and a month later helped Canada reach the final of the Davis Cup.
Armed with a big serve, an all-court game, excellent volleying skills and a sharp tennis brain, ‘Shapo’ began the Australian summer well in the inaugural 24-team ATP Cup, where Canada made the quarter-finals.
He enjoyed confidence-boosting wins against top players Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, and took one set off world number two Novak Djokovic in a three-set loss.
A player on the rise, he has the ability to give the 2020 Australian Open a real shake.
What Schwartzman lacks in height, he more than makes up with in heart, skill and belief.
Although he exited last year’s Aussie Open in the third round, Schwartzman has a great chance to go deeper, and here’s why.
Ranked five places higher now, he won the 2019 Los Cabos Open in Mexico in August, was a finalist in Vienna, a quarter-finalist at the US Open, and was part of the Argentine team that made the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup.
A superb returner of serve who chases down every ball, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word surrender.
In the women’s singles main draw, American Madison Brengle is currently ranked 93rd in singles and will most likely also play doubles, while Italy’s Camila Giorgi has a massive forehand and was ranked in the low 30s just 12 months ago, but is returning from injury and has dropped to 103rd, so may be lacking confidence and match fitness.
Also likely to feature in the doubles draws are (men) Israeli Jonathan Erlich and (women) Canadian Sharon Fichman.
Meanwhile, in the four-day Australian Open qualifying tournament – which concludes on January 17 – American Noah Rubin, Canadian Peter Polansky, Israeli veteran Dudi Sela and his countryman Amir Weintraub, all lost their matches.
Sela, 34, was forced to retire in the second set of his match against China’s Zhe Li due to a foot injury.