Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram think they can win the upcoming U.S. Open. Come again? The Grand Slam tennis tournament that no Israeli has come close to winning?
"Every tournament we enter we think we can win," Ram said.
Erlich and Ram nearly backed that up two years ago at Wimbledon. They reached the doubles semifinals, and Ram butted into the mixed doubles final. That makes them the top Israeli Grand Slam duo in history.
Last month, Erlich and Ram were in the heat of the Mercedes-Benz Cup on the UCLA courts, reaching the final. The U.S. Open begins in New York on Aug. 29.
"We're playing at a really high level," Ram said, "and we're communicating well."
They yak in Hebrew. But the inseparable friends also could banter in English and Spanish, thanks to their South American heritage, but they consider themselves "100 percent Israeli," as Erlich put it.
Erlich was a 1-year-old when his grandfather packed up the family in Argentina and landed in Haifa. Ram was 5 when his parents said it was time to leave Uruguay and make Jerusalem home.
Erlich, 28, and Ram, 25, have won a combined $1 million in career prize money.
The night after chatting with The Journal, Erlich and Ram beat a French team in three tight sets in the L.A. quarterfinals.
A sparse crowd stayed until the midnight finish. Among the diehards was Avi Suriel, who led his wife and two sons in cheers for the Israelis. No wonder. He served four years in the Israeli military before coming to Los Angeles at age 25.
"I can't believe more from our Jewish community aren't here," he said.
Erlich appreciated the support.
"Thanks for waiting," he said to fans as he left the court.
For more information on the U.S. Open, visitwww.usopen.org -- Bucky Fox, Contributing Writer
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