Andy Ram, a native of Uruguay, calls himself “a huge soccer fan.” But he was on an airplane during the World Cup final on Sunday, unable to watch Italy’s victory over France.
“I had the best excuse,” he said — he had made history the previous night.
Ram, 26, teamed with Vera Zvonareva of the Czech Republic to win the mixed doubles finals at Wimbledon, in England. His win marked the first by an Israeli in a tennis Grand Slam tournament.
Of the four tournaments that comprise the Grand Slam circuit, Wimbledon is considered the most prestigious.After winning the trophy, he booked the next available flight back to Israel, where he received a hero’s welcome.
“An unbelievable excitement,” Ram, who moved to Israel with his family as a child, said of the finals’ victory over Americans Bob Bryan and Venus Williams. “It’s the biggest event ever. It’s history in Israel,” where the match was carried live on TV.
In the stands at Wimbledon, he said, fans were cheering for him “in Hebrew.” They were shouting “kadima,” keep going, he said.
Ram says he received “hundreds” of congratulatory calls from friends in Israel. “I got a phone call from the prime minister.
“They’re still calling and sending flowers,” he told The Jewish Week Monday in a telephone interview.After turning pro in 1998, Ram quickly established a reputation as doubles player, reaching the mixed doubles finals at Wimbledon in 2003 and winning nine championships so far; entering Wimbledon this year, he was No. 12 in the ATP doubles rankings.
He had played with Zvonareva in only one other previous tournament, last month’s French Open, where they advanced to the semifinals. Such rapid success is usual in mixed doubles, Ram said. “You don’t get to play that much” — only in Grand Slam tournaments.
He had some success in men’s doubles at Wimbledon too, reaching the quarterfinals with fellow Israel Yoni Erlich.
Ram says he plans to play in the U.S. Open, in Flushing, Queens, later that summer.
After the U.S. Open he will be married to Shiri Zlotikman, a 26-year-old Sabra he met at the Wingate Institute, Israel’s elite athletics training center. Zlotikman, then a tennis player, now is studying psychology. “This,” he said, “is a great year.”