SELA4

Picture: Peter Haskin/Australian Jewish News

Dudi Sela will be bidding to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open for the first time on Friday morning, when he takes on the world number three seed Rafael Nadal.

Second on the Rod Laver Arena, the Israeli defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round, before overcoming the No. 28 seed Lukas Rosol 7-6,  5-7, 7-5, 6-3 on Tuesday. His first round victory over Struff was his first five-set match win at Melbourne Park, while he’s looking to become the first Israeli man to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open since Amos Mansdorf reached the quarter-finals in 1992. Sela was also the last Israeli man to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam when he reached that stage at 2009 Wimbledon.

Sela’s first appearance in the third round at a major since 2009 Wimbledon, Friday morning will be only the third time he’s advanced beyond the second round at a Grand Slam in 28 major appearances. Having reached the third round already this year, he’s matched his best Australian Open showing, when in 2009 he reached the third round as a qualifier, before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Sela only won one match at a Grand Slam in the whole of 2014, and is looking for his first ever win over a top-three player in what will be his third attempt, the highest ranked player he has defeated was David Ferrer when he was ranked number five at the Beijing Open in 2008.

Speaking ahead of the tie, Sela said: “It’s fun to start the year like this, I played a little better than I did in the first round and was given a great push by the many Israelis and Jews in the stands. It will be a completely different story against Nadal in the next round and I will have to be very ready and aggressive and hope that he won’t be having a good day to have any chance.

“Of course he will have to be having a pretty bad day and I will have to be having a very good day. I need to play well in the important points, because he isn’t just another player. He plays at a level I’m not used to facing. I will need to take my chances and not make many mistakes.

“In the past I used to come to these matches just looking to enjoy myself, but today I have some self-belief, even though I’m as big an underdog as possible.”

Friday’s clash will be the first meeting between the two and the match, which is set to start around 9am and is set to be televised live on British Eurosport.

Shahar Peer’s Australian Open campaign is over after she and German Annika Beck were froced to retire from their first round doubles match against Russian Alexandra Panova and Great Britain’s Heather Watson. The pair won the first set 6-2, lost the second, 7-5, before forced to retire in the third with the Israel-German duo trailing 3-1.

Other Israeli interest lies with Jonathan Erlich, who is in the second round of the men’s doubles alongside Treat Huey from the Phillipines. They take on the tournament’s ninth seeds Swede Robert Lindstedt and Pole Marcin Matkowski.

Jewish interest also sees another intriguing tie set for Saturday, when Camili Giorgi takes on Venus Williams in the third round of the women’s singles campaign.