Israeli duo waging mental war

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

When Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich call home from Toronto, they are doing more than just getting caught up on family gossip.

The two are calling to hear the news that everyone they know is safe.

The Israeli doubles partners, seeded sixth at the Rogers Cup, have been trying to stay focused on tennis but acknowledged it has been a challenge given the events back home. Both live in Tel Aviv, and both have been pre-occupied with the war between their home country and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. Neither have family members or friends who have been killed or hurt, but each has a sibling that completed army training in recent years and they could be called back for duty.

Erlich's parents, Daniel and Susana, live in Haifa, which has been rocked during the war.

"They've stayed there and their life is not normal, but they try to make it as normal as possible," Erlich, 29, said. "Where my parents live, the first missiles in the war were not close, but in the city. So far, so good, but it is tough. But thinking about it all day is not going to help."

For Ram, there is one other major event occupying his thoughts. On Sept. 12, he and his fiance, Shiri Zlotikman, are to be married in Tel Aviv, and he stressed that nothing will stop the them from being wed.

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Ram, 26, said he does not try to get his information by watching the news on television. He would rather get it straight from his family.

"The media does not always show the right pictures," Ram said. "What I see, they are showing mostly the Lebanese side and the damage Israel makes there. They don't show the 1.5 million people living underground in the north of Israel right now. We prefer to get the news from our families, from the people living inside the situation."

Because of their high seeding, Erlich and Ram received a bye in the first round and will play their opening match today. Ram had success at Wimbledon in July when he teamed with Vera Zvonareva of Russia to win the mixed doubles title, becoming the first Israeli tennis player to win a Grand Slam event at the professional level. Now,Ram and Erlich feel any success they would have at the Rogers Cup could provide a small respite for some back home.

"It's kind of a mission for us to make the people of Israel feel good," Erlich said. "We are kind of like ambassadors. Every good result we have, people are hungry to take it, especially in tough times. We are doing our job and trying to do our best and try to forget about everything else (when they are on the court)."


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