Dudi Sela will climb into the world’s top 30 for the first time after making the last 16 at Wimbledon.
The unseeded Israeli’s fairytale run ended in the fourth round with a straight-sets defeat against fourth seed Novak Djokovic on Court 3 on Monday.
Having beaten two seeded players along the way, including Spain’s Tommy Robredo (15), the brave Sela, 24, was not outplayed by the Serb with the pair producing some entertaining rallies to keep a boisterous crowd on the edge of their seats.
In the end, Djokovic’s booming serve, unerring consistency and accuracy proved decisive against a hard-working Sela.
Before walking off court, Sela gave the thumbs up to his supporters who included former Chelsea manager Avram Grant. The Kiryat Shmona resident became the first Israeli to reach the fourth round since Amos Mansdorf 20 years ago.
“Nerves played a part,” said Sela after his defeat. “I started and finished nervously. I had a few chances but I didn’t play aggressively enough. I waited for him to make his move.”
Eliminated in the first round in his first taste of SW19 last year, Sela described how having the middle Sunday off disrupted his game. “I’m not used to having two days off. He had a big advantage in terms of experience of being in week two of a Grand Slam. His second serve was very good and arguably the main reason the match was one-sided. He also has one of the best and most aggressive returns in the world so I didn’t come to the net as often as usual.”
“I didn’t feel pressure from the crowd or from Israel. The pressure of nerves made my hands tighten and made it very tough for me to play my tennis freely and go for my shots.”
Appreciative of his fans, Sela said: “I like it when there’s a lot of chaos on the court. It reminds me of Israel.”
Looking back at the tournament, he said: “I’ve got confidence for the Davis Cup which is even more important than Wimbledon to me. My ranking will be much higher which helps a lot with future competitions.
“I didn’t surprise myself. I had a good draw and beat players I’ve beaten before. My game is OK on grass but it’s tough to play against the big servers.”
Djokovic said: “I tried not to underestimate my opponent, even though I was the favourite. I knew that he’s a very fast player so I tried to be aggressive. I took time to get used to the conditions but was happy to finish the match in three sets.”
Jesse Levine missed out on a fourth round clash against third seed Andy Murray after he was beaten by 19th seed Stanislas Wawrinka.
Levine said: “I’d played a really good game and felt like I didn’t do too many things wrong in the game. But it was a touch match as he’s a good player.
“I don’t have any complaints about the result overall, not at all. Obviously it would have been nice to get through and keep it going a little bit, but I’m happy, and I’m ready to go home and see the family. It’s been a while.”
Andy Ram and Max Mirnyi were eliminated in the third round of the men’s doubles. The seventh seeds were beaten in five sets by Swede Simon Aspelin and Australian Paul Hanley.
Ram and Russian Anna Chakvetadze lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 against Igor Andreev and Maria Kirilenko in the mixed doubles.
Shahar Peer and Argentine Gisela Dulko bowed out of the women’s doubles in the second round.