Rafael Nadal is looking for his third Wimbledon championship as he kicks off play today against Dudi Sela of Israel. The two have met twice before on hard courts: at the Australian Open in 2015 and the Miami Open in 2017. Nadal took out Sela both times in straight sets.
But Sela may have a chance to pull off an upset today against the #1 player in the world. Nadal has also struggled to regain any momentum at Wimbledon since 2011, which was the last time he reached the finals. Sela will try to capitalize on that.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Top-Ranked Israeli Athlete is Looking for Some Redemption
Sela is looking to rebound from first-round defeats at both the French Open and the Busan Open Challenger in South Korea. He has been consistently ranked in the ATP’s top 100 for much of the past decade, but has been slipping for all of 2018. He is now ranked #127. His best ranking to date was back in 2009, when he reached #29 on the ATP list.
Over the years, Sela has battled to recover from a losing record. In singles play, his overall record is 141-191. His total prize earnings in both singles and doubles play add up to $3,755,643. So far in 2018, his record is 5-7. He has never won a Grand Slam title.
2. Sela Stunned American Fans By Beating John Isner at Wimbledon in 2017
The underdog took the victory in the second round at Wimbledon last year. Sela, who is only 5’9″, was matched against the 6’10” American John Isner. Fans in Israel described the match as a literal David versus Goliath.
Sela was supposed to be overmatched in more than just height. Isner was ranked #25 at the time, and Sela was 90th in the world. Isner is known for his powerful serve that many opponents find challenging to return. But Sela was able to combat the giant with his signature backhand and ability to pull off smart ball placement.
The match went to five sets, with Isner winning the first and third sets. In the 4th set, Isner had opportunities to seal a win. But he failed to take advantage of at least three break chances, which allowed Sela to battle back and win the set 7-5. Sela then dominated the fifth and final set 6-3. But the epic match must have exhausted Sela, because he went to to lose in the third round to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in straight sets, 6-1 6-1.
3. Sela Once Forfeited a Match to Observe a Religious Holiday
Sela, who lives in Tel Aviv, is an observant Jew. In September 2017, he was scheduled to play late in the afternoon at the Wuhan Open in China. This was on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, when Jews are required to fast beginning at sunset. Sela reportedly asked for an earlier start time but that request was not granted.
Sela was playing against Alexander Dolgopolov of Ukraine in the quarterfinals. They had split the first two sets 6-3 and 6-4. Sela was down 1-0 in the third set when he decided to forfeit the rest of the match, in order to observe Yom Kippur. By doing so, he walked away from a potential $34,000 in prize money and a chance to earn 90 ranking points.
The Jerusalem Post commended Sela for his decision. An editorial writer published this praise: “The athlete’s complete dedication to winning is sometimes subordinated to greater ideals. Loyalty to people, to God, sometimes takes precedence. And this is a powerful message. Life is not all about self-realization and personal advancement. True meaning often comes from selfless acts that affirm our deeper affiliation and belonging… Sela is a source of pride for the Jewish people. Even in Shenzhen, China, at great personal expense, a Jew should remember his roots.”
4. Sela is a Fan of Nadal’s Greatest Rival Roger Federer
According to the ATP, one of the players Sela admires the most is champion Roger Federer of Switzerland. Federer is currently ranked #2 in the world by the ATP but is the #1 seed at Wimbledon. Federer is the defending Wimbledon champion, and has won eight titles in London. He defeated Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in the first round in straight sets.
Sela and Federer faced off in the second round at the U.S. Open in 2011. Federer dominated the match, winning in straight sets. The match took just 77 minutes. Sela spoke about Federer’s serve after the match. “I had no chance against his serve, zero chance,” the little Israeli said Thursday. “That’s what’s what I felt. Every point was so fast. Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, they let you play. They let you play more from the baseline, even though the score can be the same. But they let you play. He didn’t let me play at all.”
Sela Has Previously Beaten American Sam Querrey
Sela has done battle with the American at least six times since 2009, beating him twice. This is no easy feat because Querrey has a record of taking down some of the best players in the sport.
Last year, Querrey defeated Andy Murray in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, who was #1 in the world at the time. In 2016, also at Wimbledon, he took down Novak Djokovic to move on to the quarterfinals. Querrey has also claimed victory against Rafael Nadal. He beat Nadal in the finals at the Mexican Open in Acapulco in 2017. Querrey is currently ranked #13 in the world and won his first round match at Wimbledon.
Dudi Sela and Rafael Nadal face off at 9:15AM ET at Wimbledon.
Source: Heavy Sports