The Israeli doubles team of Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich captured the Australian Open men's championship on Saturday, defeating the French duo of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra, 7-5, 7-6. The victory marks Ram and Erlich's first ever Grand Slam championship and the first time an all-Israeli doubles pair has taken home the crown.
Both men will split $400,000 in prize money.
The Israeli tandem played solidly throughout. They opened the match by breaking the French serve, capturing the first game of the first set. At 4-2, the match was halted due to rain.
After the match resumed, the French team roared back, evening the first set at 5 games apiece. Ram and Erlich, however, answered with a break of their own to lock up the first set.
Both sides held serve throughout the second set, which necessitated a tiebreaker. The Israelis overcame a 3-1 deficit to rally for a 7-4 victory.
Erlich and Ram have won 10 tournaments together and are unbeaten in Davis Cup play since 2005, but it took seven Australian Open appearances for them to reach the final.
"We were fighting hard, we were much more hungry I think than Llodra and Clement today," Ram said. "They have a Grand Slam title already, maybe that's why."
Ram, who won the 2007 French Open mixed doubles title with Natalie Dechy, said Saturday's title was by far the greater achievement.
"We're so happy to be the first Israelis. We made history today," he said. "I'm very happy for both of us. We believed we could win the Grand Slam title. We really believed in this."
Erlich and Ram's win comes a day after Shahar Peer became the first Israeli woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the women's doubles.
Peer and Belarussian Victoria Azarenka lost to Ukrainian sisters Kateryna and Alona Bondarenko 6-2, 6-4 in the final.
"It's big for a small country like Israel to get Shahar Peer in the finals, us winning the title, semifinal of mixed doubles, quarters in mixed. It's big, you know," Ram said. "You don't see U.S.A. in the finals here in this tournament.
In a bold move for an Israeli pair, Erlich and Ram are now considering traveling to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Tennis Championships.
"The ATP will do all they can do to provide us the right security. And if we decide to go, I think it's a big tournament," Ram said.
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