BACK IN June, Israeli tennis hit a desperate low when not one of their players qualified for the first round of a Grand Slam, the first time it had happened for 15 years. Seven months on, three players did take part in the first round at the Australian Open, unfortunately not one of them got any further. Once more, Shahar Peer’s shwoing proved to be the biggest disappointment, being dismantled by her former doubles partner. Peer, who only three years ago was as high as number 11 in the world, had a dismal 2013, with little sign as yet of any improvement in 2014. Dudi Sela and Julia Glushko also bowed out in Melbourne on Day One. From having a top-ten women’s player and a team taking on Spain in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup, Israeli tennis has been on a downwad spiral of late and there doesn’t seem much evidence of it letting up.
NOT SINCE Rob Earnshaw donned his boots for Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2012 has a Welshman graced the top-flight of Israeli football. That was until last week when James Keene announced he had put pen to paper on a one-and-a-half year contract with Bnei Yehuda. Joining them from Swedish champions IF Elsborg, a move to an English club failed to materialise after they weren’t prepared to match the club’s asking price. The Israelis came in, and the rest as they say is history. And looking forward to his new challenge, he said: “The club have always in the past been a major side challenging for honours in the league and they are looking to recover in the second half of the season. After talks had taken place between the two sides and the agents, I felt it was the right move for me.” Describing Israel as “an exciting place to live,” he said: “The weather is obviously so different and I will be living close to one of the beaches. I will be living just 40 minutes away from Jerusalem. It will be a completely different culture for me but one I am looking forward to.”