Game over for Sela

By Danny Caro, January 26, 2009

Dudi Sela’s dream run at the Australian Open came to an end on Saturday.

In a David-versus-Goliath contest, the plucky 23-year-old fell in four sets to last year’s runner-up, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, at Rod Laver Arena.

Playing in his first ever third round match at a grand slam tournament, Sela was broken in the first game of the match, and went on to lose the first set 4-6 in front of 10,000 fans.

The Israeli, buoyed by flags bearing the Star of David in the crowd, was two sets down before he began to claw his way back into the match, taking the third set 6-1.

But Tsonga bounced back with powerful serves and blistering baseliners to close out the match in four sets.

Sela said he felt nervous, and didn’t convert crucial break points. “He played with a lot of power. I didn't put a lot of high percentage on my serve.”

But he said his five-match winning streak, including three in the qualifiers, was a learning experience.

“I take a lot of confidence from this tournament,” Sela said after the match. “I learned a lot from this week. I hope to continue the same way, to play solid every week.”

Ranked at world No. 106, Sela, the lowest-ranked player left in the tournament, takes home $33,000.

He beat two top 50 players in the world en route to the third round: world No. 31 Rainer Schuettler, from Germany, in the first round and world No. 44 Victor Hanescu, from Romania, in the second round.

Meanwhile, doubles supremo Andy Ram failed in his bid to defend his Australian title on Thursday, going out in the second round. Ram is still alive in the mixed doubles, playing alongside France’s Natalie Dechy.

Shahar Peer was knocked out of the doubles and the mixed doubles.

Last updated: 10:39am, January 26 2009