RETIREMENT TRIBUTE 2014
Ram Ready For Life Beyond The Court
Tel Aviv, Israel
by James Buddell|
Five days ago, 200 people left a Tel Aviv cinema in tears. But it wasn’t as a reaction to a box office flop.
Andy Ram had just provided his family and friends an insight into his life as a professional tennis player over the past two years… and he had announced his intention to retire.
There will be no more ATP World Tour or Grand Slam play. But in four months’ time, Ram’s emotions will reach a crescendo when a chapter in his life, for which he has dedicated 17 years, will end.
On 13 September, he will walk onto court with his great friend, Jonathan Erlich, hoping that his final bow to professional tennis — as part of ‘AndiYoni’ — will reward Israel with a place in the 2015 Davis Cup World Group.
Speaking at his house in Tel Aviv, 34-year-old Ram told ATPWorldTour.com, “It’s the right time. My body is not what it was prior to hip surgery in September 2012. I am proud of what I have achieved, but I never wanted to play until I was 40 – like some players.
“Family is the most important thing to me. I want to experience life with my wife, Shiri, and my two children, together. Not over a phone, as has happened too much over the past 17 years. I’ve missed so much, as I have travelled for up to eight months of the year.”
Ram insists his life has been blessed.
Having started playing tennis aged five, he received inspiration from his late father, Ami, “who drove me to every tournament in Israel growing up”; his mother, Diana, “one of Israel’s leading dental specialists for children”, his wife, "an angel", and Ronen Moralli, his coach, “who treated me like a son and taught me about life on and off the court”.
His 20-year friendship with Erlich, with whom he won 16 of his 19 doubles titles – including three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns, gave him some of the great high points in his life.
“The reception we received after capturing the 2008 Australian Open title [d. Clement-Llodra] and our partnership in Davis Cup ties, particularly when Israel reached the semi-finals [in 2009], helped to unite and attract thousands to the sport,” Ram explained.
“The feeling of winning a Grand Slam is a one off. Holding the trophy aloft in front of a packed stadium and receiving appreciation is difficult to describe. Upon our return to Tel Aviv, the Minister of Sport, government officials, 150 reporters and thousands of fans greeted us at the airport. We were guests at the home of President Shimon Peres. It was crazy.”
Ram’s historic mixed doubles successes with Vera Zvonareva at 2006 Wimbledon and Nathalie Dechy at 2007 Roland Garros, will also live long in the memory. “Bringing home a Grand Slam title to this country is massive,” said Ram, who ranked a career-high No. 5 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings. “I don’t think Israelis understand how hard it is.”
Erlich, who is still competing aged 37, paid tribute to Ram, telling ATPWorldTour.com in Madrid, “As a team for 13 years, Andy has been a very important part of my career and a great friend.
“Together, we managed to raise the profile of tennis in Israel to places that it had never been before. I want to thank him for every moment we shared on and off the court.
“Besides being a friend, you have been a part of my family. Not many doubles teams can say that and I think that has always been our strength.”
Just days after Ram’s farewell in September, the ATP World Tour will return to Tel Aviv for the first time since 1996. The news of an ATP World Tour 250 tournament in Israel comes as a welcome surprise to Ram, one of the sport’s big personalities.
“The weather will be perfect and Tel Aviv is one of the world’s greatest cities to party,” he said, with a smile. “I will do anything to help the organisers.” The tennis world will hope he stays involved in the sport.