Love and Loyalty

More out of ethnic loyalty than any expectation of a great match, The Journal stayed late at the 78th annual Mercedes Benz Cup men’s tennis tournament on July 17 at UCLA to watch a doubles semifinal between two Israelis and two Americans. The Americans, Bob and Mike Bryan, were the tournament’s top-seeded doubles team, handsome identical twins from Camarillo who have been unstoppable lately. The Israelis’ record was spottier. Yonatan Ehrlich, 28, is a native of Buenos Aries, Argentina, and a resident of Haifa. His partner, Andy Ram, 24, is from Jerusalem by way of Montevideo, Uruguay. They also are strikingly handsome — they prepped for the match by running shirtless around a practice court, kicking a tennis ball as if it were a soccer ball.

Both are sports heroes in Israel, according to Hagai Ben Zvi, who covers tennis for the Israeli press. Their international careers were set back by three years (each) of army service, but both made the semifinals at Wimbledon last year and both have been invited to the Olympics in Athens.

And both played what turned out to be one of the most hard-fought and exciting matches of the tournament. Highlights for Israel-watchers included the way each called a ball for the other — Shelcha! — Hebrew for “Yours!” and the fact that Ram, after a double fault, smacked a ball with typical Israeli impatience over the grandstands, for which he received a warning violation from the head referee. The Israelis lost in close games and close sets — but, said Ben Zvi, they will no doubt return to the Mercedes Benz Cup next year.

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