Okun, Noam : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Okun, Noam

The highest ranked Israeli in the world in men's singles, Okun is ranked No. 154 in the world in singles and No. 382 in doubles as of July 8, 2005 (he reached his highest singles ranking at No. 95 in April, 2002 and his highest doubles ranking at No. 182 in November, 2003). In August 2004, Noam won his first title in Binghamton, New York by beating Danai Udomchoke 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 for the title.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 16, 1978

Career Highlights:
Okun turned professional in 1995 at the age of 17. In 2000, he competed at the Australian Open, his first Grand Slam event. In 2002, Noam won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open, but was eliminated in the first round the tournament by Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina in four sets (2-6, 7-6, 3-6, 1-6). In 2002, Okun also made his first-ever appearance at Wimbledon. Against American Jeff Morrison, Okun played well but lost in straight sets in the first round, 3-6, 6-7 (3-7), 2-6.

In mid-July 2002, Okun and his fellow Israeli partner Harel Levy reached the doubles semifinals of the Seascape Challenger Tournament. That competition was good for the Israelis: Amir Hadad and his partner Martin Vassallo Arguello won the doubles final, and Noam Behr reached the singles final!

Okun competed in the 2002 U.S. Open. Seeded No. 8 in the qualifying tournament, Okun won all three of his matches (including a victory over Israeli Noam Behr) to reach the tournament. After defeating Igor Kunitcin in the first round, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, Okun lost in the second round to the world's top player, Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets, 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 1-6.

In the qualifying tournament for the 2003 Australian Open, Okun was the No. 5 seed. In the first round, he defeated Leonardo Azzaro of Italy, 6-2, 6-0. In the second round, he lost to Julien Benneteau of France, 6-1, 6-2. Noam also played in the qualifying tournament at the French Open, but did not advance past the second round.

At Wimbledon in 2003, Okun again competed in the qualifying rounds for both singles and doubles. In singles, he advanced to the third round before losing to Takao Suzuki of Japan, 3-6, 4-6, 4-6. In doubles, Okun and partner Igor Kunitsyn of Russia lost in the first round.

Okun upset Martin Verkerk (ranked 15 by the ATP) in the first round of the 2003 Cincinnati Tennis Masters Series, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, but lost to Robby Ginepri in the second round. The excellent first-round result catapulted Noam a world ranking of 167. Unfortunately, Okun was unable to qualify for the 2003 U.S. Open or the 2004 Roland Garros.

Noam enjoyed an impressive run in June and July 2004 tournaments. Okun beat Bryan Baker 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of Forrest Hills in New York. Jacob Adaktusson was beaten 6-4, 6-4 in the next round American Cecil Mamiit was defeated 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5). Dusan Vemic beat Noam easily 2-6, 3-6 in the semis. In late June the top ranked Israeli player was in action again in Cordoba. He dispensed of Josh Goffi 6-4, 7-6(3), in the first round and of Croatian Roko Karanusic 6-1, 7-6(1) in the second. Massimo Dell'Acqua proved initially to be a stubborn opponent but caved in the second set as he lost 7-6(4), 6-2 in the quarter-finals. Gilles Muller outplayed Okun 5-7, 0-6 in the semi-finals. The Israeli was most impressive in the prestigious Indianapolis International Series. After breezing past Yen-Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-1 he beat Swede Thomas Enqvist (ranked 61 in the world), 7-6 (7), 2-6, 7-6 (5). He beat Karol Beck 7-6(2), 6-2 in the third round but fell at the quarter-final hurdle to Gregory Carraz 6-4, 3-6, 2-6. His world rankings jumped 20 spot thanks to his fine summer form.

Okun won his first title in Binghamton, New York during the month of August, 2004.He beat unranked American Ryan Sachire 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the opening round. Bjorn Rehenquist was eliminated 6-3, 6-4 by Okun in the next round. The Israeli struggled early vs. Michel Kratochvil (ranked 125 in the world) but pulled back the last two sets to win 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2. Australian Nathan Healey provided surprisingly stiff opposition in the semi's but succumbed 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. He beat Thai hopeful Danai Udomchoke 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 for the title.

Okun qualified for the 2005 Wimbledon tournament through a successful qualification campaign. He beat heavily favored Jean-Michael Gambill in the final qualification round. The Israeli was ahead 6-2, 5-4 when the American retired due to an injury. Noam faced Gael Monfils in the first round of Wimbledon. After a strong start and an early break, Okun fell 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (16-14).

Haifa, Israel

Physical description:
6'1", 180 pounds

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