Andy Ram and Jonathan Elrich from Israel, seeded three in the 2014 Chennai Open, are the most experienced pair in doubles in ATP and the lone pair here with a Grand Slam title — the 2008 Australian Open.
Ram said: “It was the biggest moment of our career. And a great moment for Isreali sport. Not many can experience the joys of a Grand Slam win. When we returned to Israel, there were around 150 journalists waiting for us. It’s not every day such things happen.”
Elrich and Ram are not new to South Asia’s only ATP World Tour event. In the Gold Flake Open in 2000 in Chennai, Ram paired with India’s Syed Fazaluddin while Elrich made his debut in the Open in the 2001 edition with Laurence Tieleman of Italy.
Though Elrich and Ram lost in the first round with different partners, when they teamed up things changed for the better.
Elrich and Ram reached the final in 2004, losing to Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo. After losing out early the next year, the Israeli pair reached the final again in 2012, losing to Leander Paes and Janko Tipsarevic.
This time too, they are not taking anything for granted and have been working out with coach Noam Behr back home in Tel Aviv.
“We are ready and are keen to win the tournament. We have the experience and the skills to do it,” said Elrich, who along with Ram has won 15 ATP doubles titles.
Elrich and Ram’s friendship started 21 years ago when they were juniors. “I was 12 years and playing in the juniors — he was three years my senior. We first teamed up in the year 2001 for a Challenger tournament. Once we started to win five-to six Challengers title, we believed as a pair we can make it,” said 33-year-old Ram.Historic feat
Before the 2008 Australian Open victory, the pair made history by reaching the semifinals of the 2003 Wimbledon, a feat no Israeli has done before: reaching the semifinals of a Grand Slam.
“Tennis in Israel has not seen a good result for a long time. When two lesser-known players made it to the top, we became famous,” said Elrich.
Elrich and Ram are in their 30s, a time when players generally take stock of their careers, but they believe they still have the energy and the enthusiasm to go on. “We are working hard, we think we have it in us to win another ATP and a Grand Slam title,” said Elrich. He insisted they hadn’t set a date for retirement.
“We are friends before tennis and after tennis. Not many can say that, which makes it very special,” said Ram on their relationship.