Levy, Harel : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Levy, Harel

Levy is one of Israel's top male singles players, rising to No. 30 in the world in June, 2001. Through much of 2002, Harel had to battle injuries and his world ranking suffered because of it. In 2004, Levy began his attempt at making a comeback and as of July 8, 2005, he was ranked No. 257 in the world in men's singles, and No. 150 in doubles.

On September 29, 2003, Levy and partner Paul Baccanello of Australia won the doubles title at the Open de l'Isere. Levy also reached the singles final at the tournament. This success followed a run to the semifinals the previous week at the Grand Prix de Tennis de Sant-Jean-de-Luz. When asked what his biggest dream was, he said, "to win against [Pete] Sampras in the U.S. Open final." While Sampras's retirement from tennis in 2003 dashed Levy's fantasy, Harel did defeat his idol in May, 2001, at the Italian Open.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Aug. 5, 1978

Career Highlights:
Levy began playing tennis at the age of seven. His family moved to Portugal for a year and half when he was nine years old, but Harel continued to play the sport. They returned to Israel, and in 1992 the family moved to Ramat-Hasharon so Harel could train at the tennis center there. That year, he was No. 1 in the under-14 age group in Israel. After turning pro in 1995, Levy served his required time in the Israeli military, but the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) allowed him to compete in events during his service. This kept him in shape so he could be ready to compete after he fulfilled his military term.

In 2000, Levy played his first Grand Slam events, but lost in the first round of the French Open and was knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon. Harel really burst onto the international tennis scene in August, 2000, at the Tennis Masters Series-Canada tournament in Toronto. Levy, then a relative unknown, made it all the way to the final before succumbing to the winner, Marat Safin, the U.S. Open champion that year.

Levy almost became the first Israeli to win an ATP Tour singles title since Amos Mansdorf in 1993. He celebrated his 22nd birthday by upsetting established Czech pro Jiri Novak in the tournament's semifinal round. "This is the greatest feeling," Levy said upon reaching the final. "It's like a dream come true." (New York Times, August 6, 2000) Before the tournament, Levy was ranked 144 in the world.

In 2001, Levy continued to move up the world rankings. On March 9, he upset Tim Henman, 6-2, 6-4, at the Franklin Templeton Classic in Scottsdale, Arizona. Levy's first victory over a player in the world's top ten propelled him into the semifinals of the tournament to face Swedish star Magnus Norman. The highly seeded Norman barely survived against Harel, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8).

Two months later, on May 8, Harel upset the world's top player, his idol Pete Sampras, at the Italian Open. Levy stunned Sampras 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, in what was his most impressive victory yet. In his next match at the tournament, he whipped Nicolas Kiefer, 6-2, 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinals, where he subsequently lost, 7-6, 6-2, to Sweden's Andreas Vinciguerra. On June 23, 2001, Levy played in the finals of the Nottingham tournament in England. He lost to Thomas Johansson of Sweden, 7-5, 6-3; but Levy's presence in the finals was a validation of his steady rise towards the higher echelons of men's international tennis.

Levy appeared at all four Grand Slam events in 2001, reaching the second round at the Australian and French Opens; he was even seeded No. 34 at Wimbledon, but lost in the first round. Although he looked to build on his 2001 success, Harel was hampered by injuries for much of the 2002 season. In mid-July 2002, however, Levy and his partner, fellow Israeli, Noam Okun, reached the doubles semifinals at the Seascape Challenger Tournament, which was won by fellow Israeli Amir Hadad and his partner, Martin Vassallo Arguello. Another Israeli, Noam Behr, reached the singles finals.

At the 2002 U.S. Open, Levy upset No. 30 seed Andrei Pavel of Romania in the first round, 1-6, 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the second round, however, he lost to Ramon Delgado in a closely-battled four-set match, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-7 (3-7). At Wimbledon in 2002, Levy lost in the first round to former champion Andre Agassi after playing only five warm-up matches prior to the prestigious tournament. He had previously lost in the first round of the singles competition at the French Open after missing the Australian Open.

At the qualifying tournament for Wimbledon in 2003, Levy defeated Paul Goldstein in the first round and reached the third round before losing to Todd Larkham of Australia in five sets (6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 3-6, 1-6). Harel suffered a major blow when he was defeated in the first qualifying round of the 2003 US Open.

Levy, currently the top Israeli player, was back in peak form at the Dnepropetrovsk tournament in November, 2003. He reached the singles final before succumbing to Georgian Irakli Labadze 3-6, 6-3, 1-6. Harel fared better in the doubles tournament where, along with partner Jonathan Erlich, he won the title in straight sets.

Levy did not kick of the 2004 season as well as he would have liked. Mikhail Youzhny and Harel were defeated 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the 2004 Australian Open. However, he seems much healthier and there could be good form ahead for Israel's top gun.

Harel had the misfortune of meeting Argentine ace Juan Ignacio Chela (the 22nd seed) in the first round of the 2004, French Open. Chela beat the Israeli 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. Levy looked rusty on his favored clay surface and needs work to find his full form. He did not fare any better in the Roland Garros doubles event. Though Harel and partner Hicham Arazi put up a stern fight, they lost to Dutch duo Martin Verkerk and John van Lottum by a 4-6, 6-3, 4-6 score in the first round.

Harel and partner Amir Hadad were victorious in the F1 tournament in Hungary, held in April 2005.The two beat hometown favorites Attila Balazs and Bence Gyula Toth 6-4, 7-5 in the round of sixteen. The Israeli's cruised past Peter Miklusicak and Jan Stancik as well as Sadik Kadir and Filip Urban in the subsequent rounds, both times by a score of 6-1, 6-3. The twosome captured the title against Croats Nikola Martinovic and Josko Topic 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.

The doubles performances of Hadad and Levy in the months of April and May, 2005, were quite impressive. In late April the Israeli's beat Croats Nikola Martinovic and Josko Topic 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 to capture the Hungary F1 tournament in Budapest. A few days later they defeated the German team of Bastian Knittel and Marius Zay 6-1, 6-0 to acquire the F2 title in Miskolc as well. The twosome reached the final of the Budapest clay tournament only to lose to Stephen Huss and Johan Landsberg 7-6, 6-1 in the final. Levy and Hadad moved their murderous form from Hungary to the German town of Furth where they took the title by coasting past Jan Frode Andersen and Johan Landsberg 6-1, 6-2.

Kibutz Nahshonin, Israel

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