LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - Dudi Sela became the first Israeli man to reach the fourth round of a grand slam for 17 years on Friday when he knocked out Spain’s Tommy Robredo to set up a clash with Novak Djokovic.
Sela’s backhand is a stroke of real potency and he used it to full effect to record a 7-6 7-5 2-6 7-5 victory over the 15th seed and so emulate Amos Mansdorf’s run to the Australian Open round of 16 in 1992.
“I was watching him when he was playing and after on tapes,” the 24-year-old Sela said of Mansdorf who has been helping the Israeli tennis federation. “I think we have a similar game. He was also very good on grass. He gave me a lot of tips.
Mansdorf’s run was halted by Jim Courier and Sela will have to repeat his form of the first three rounds in which he also beat last year’s semi-finalist Rainer Schuettler to stand a chance against fourth seed Djokovic.
“Djokovic is different player, he’s number four in the world. He has won a grand slam. He’s a very experienced player so I’m going to give my best, play hopefully the same tennis as I played until now, until this round.”
Sela’s only moment of concern against Robredo came during a third-set lapse when he broke a string. His preferred frame was sent off to the All England Club’s stringer but was late returning, temporarily throwing his concentration.
“I was always asking the referee how long it’s going to take for the racket to string,” he said. “Normally it’s 20, 30 minutes, and it was already one and a half sets that the racket didn’t come back. I was very pissed.”
Sela was cheered on by a noisy contingent of Israeli fans who broke out into a chorus of “Dudi, King of Israel” at various moments of a match played in a Davis Cup atmosphere on Court Three. He did not disappoint, either, playing like a seasoned grasscourt player in only his second Wimbledon.
“Yeah, it was very nice to see a lot of Israelis, a lot of Jewish people here supporting me,” he said.
Sela’s run at Wimbledon is good news for Israel’s chances of causing an upset in the Davis Cup quarter-final next month against Russia in Tel Aviv.
“I hope people saw on television these few matches that I played,” he said. “Not all the tickets are sold out for the Davis Cup tie, so hopefully now people will want to come and watch more tennis.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; to query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org