Charging Ram

Jonathan Zeller

With his impressive athletic résumé and game-winning work ethic, Israeli tennis player Andy Ram is primed to be one of the brightest stars at this year's US Open. Ram, 29, has won doubles titles at three other tennis Majors—the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon—and this year, teamed with partner Max Mirnyi, he hopes to complete his career grand slam. While in the City, Ram and other Israeli hopefuls will also participate in an August 28 clinic for New York Junior Tennis League players at Robert F. Wagner Middle School. Amid his busy schedule, Ram took a few moments to catch up with and share his thoughts on America's premier tennis tournament.

Singles matches get most of the attention at the US Open. What should fans look for in doubles?
Andy Ram: Doubles in the US is getting a lot of support from the crowds. Many recreational players in the US play doubles, and I see a lot of fans in the stands. You can see some exciting matches with the Bryans and other top teams. [Editor's note: The Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, are the world's number one ranked men's doubles team.] These days, you also see some singles players out there, which makes it more attractive for the crowd. Fans should expect very high quality of play, because it's a Grand Slam, which is always a big fight.

You've won titles at all the other Grand Slams, but not yet at the US Open. Does that give you extra motivation to win this year in NYC?
AR: Definitely, definitely, definitely. I can tell you that my main goal this year is to win the US Open title. I won Wimby [Wimbledon] in 2006, the 2007 French Open and the 2008 Australian Open. So in 2009 I’m looking to complete my grand slam. It's exciting for me—playing here in the US is always exciting.

What makes the US Open special in comparison with other tournaments?
AR: The United States is our second home—that’s part of it. The Israelis get so much support here, and you can feel it in the stands. There aren't too many Israeli players, but when Shahar [Peer] plays, or Dudi Sela, or Yoni [Jonathan Erlich] and myself are playing doubles, you see a lot of people cheering. The US Open’s atmosphere is one of the best. The crowd gets into it, whichever nation is playing: Israel, Sweden, obviously the US, France. When French players are playing, you see French people screaming for them and supporting them. It’s the same for the Israelis. You see groups of people bringing in a lot of national colors.

What did you do the last time you were in New York? Do you have any favorite attractions in the City?
AR: The last few years, I've been doing the same thing: hotel, tournament, hotel, tournament, hotel, tournament. [Laughs] But sometimes I get a chance to hang around with friends and eat at some good restaurants. I've also been to most of the museums. You can feel the power of the City even when you're approaching it from the airport—when you see all the buildings. It's really something special, and I love coming back to New York for these two weeks every year. It's just a great feeling.

You’ve said that you’ve known you’d become a pro tennis player since you were a small child. Why tennis? Have you ever thought about doing anything else?
AR: I was born in Uruguay, and I moved to Israel when I was 5. From the first day I was there, basically, I started playing tennis. My father died a few years ago. He was a professional soccer player, and he didn't want me to be involved in soccer—too many injuries—so he pushed me to tennis. From a young age, I was one of the best in my group. When I was 13 or 14, I made the decision to leave my parents' house and move to a sports institute. When you do that at such an early age, you sacrifice a lot for the sport. When you're young, you don't know if you're going to be successful or win a Grand Slam. That's your dream, but you practice day in and day out because you like playing tennis. The outcome—winning some Grand Slams and doing well for the country—that's after many years of hard work. I don't regret a moment of it.

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