BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Argentine Jewish tennis star Diego Schwartzman won the Rio de Janeiro Open, raising his ranking to 18th in the Association of Tennis Professionals, or ATP.
It is the first time that a Jewish player is among the top 20 in the ATP rankings since 1990, when American Brad Gilbert was fourth. In 1987, Israeli Amos Mansdorf also was ranked 18th.
On Sunday, Schwartzman defeated the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco of Spain, 6-2, 6-3, in the final of the Rio Open, the biggest tournament of South America in prize money and ranking.
“I’m very happy to break into the top 20,” Schwartzman, 25, said in an interview on the tournament website. “It’s a very difficult tournament, with top 10 (players), great players in the draw and when the week starts you don’t think you are going to play the finals.”
Schwartzman grew up in a Jewish family in Buenos Aires and rose as a tennis player in the Hacoaj JCC sport club in the Argentine capital.
Last week his entire family, including his grandmother, Celia, attended the Buenos Aires Open tournament to cheer him on.
In a corner of the court his parents, sister, two brothers and his grandmother shouted their support.
“I suffered like crazy, but finally I’m happy for him, is a very good grandson, and despite his success he is still humble, he is still the same, he is still good people, a nice boy,” Celia told JTA after the Buenos Aires match.
Last season, Schwartzman broke into the Top 25 in the ATP rankings for the first time and earned more than $1.5 million in prize money.