The couple of hundred people in attendance came for one reason alone.
They were at Canada Stadium in Ramat Hasharon on Sunday evening to get a first-hand look at Yshai Oliel.
He has yet to even celebrate his 17th birthday. And Sunday’s match won’t even go down in any official records.
But Oliel’s 6-4, 6-4 win over Sweden’s Markus Eriksson gave Israeli tennis fans a look into the future, a reason for optimism for many years to come.
Israel’s Davis Cup team had already secured a victory over Sweden and another year in Group I by taking an unassailable 3-0 lead on Saturday.
That allowed Israel captain Eyal Ran and his counterpart Fredrik Rosengren to agree that the fifth rubber would not be played and an exhibition match would be held instead, meaning Oliel could play even though he wasn’t named in Israel’s four-man roster for the tie. He had trained with the team all week, but wasn’t included in the final squad.
Oliel, who sits at No. 912 in the ATP world rankings and No. 31 in the ITF junior rankings, has long been heralded as the future of Israeli tennis. He showed what the hype is all about by beating an opponent who is 10 years his senior and ranked 456 places above him.