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January 26, 2008

Jonathan Erlich

Andy Ram



Q. Thoughts on the first Israeli partnership to win a Grand Slam tournament?
ANDY RAM: It's an unbelievable moment. It's a great, great moment for us. I won two Grand Slams in mixed. This happiness, I mean, it's not even close to what I had during Wimbledon 2006 or French 2007. This is way over the expectations.
I mean, winning with one of my best friends, partner for years.
JONATHAN ERLICH: I thought I'm your best friend (smiling).
ANDY RAM: We are like a family. We're like brothers. We have a couple of tennis players in Israel, like four or five guys, we're really good friends. And that's it.
I mean, so happy to be the first Israelis. We made history today. Very happy for both of us. We believed we could win the Grand Slam title. We really believed in this. And we were talking about it a lot in the press in Israel and all over the world. We believe we are one of the best teams in the world, especially today when a lot of teams change. It's a great day for us, for our family, for Israel, for everybody.

Q. Do you know how it will be received in Israel?
JONATHAN ERLICH: Yeah, well, even we lose, already all the media told us yesterday that they will wait for us at the airport. It will be quite messy at the airport. We need to talk to the security.

Q. Did you talk to the Prime Minister yet?
ANDY RAM: We got a call. Actually, they left me a message to call him back and I couldn't reach him.
JONATHAN ERLICH: That's the Israeli way. The prime minister asked us to call him back.
ANDY RAM: We're going to talk to him soon. He's looking for us, yeah.

Q. You beat the reigning Wimbledon doubles champions in two tough sets. Can you tell us your thoughts on the match, why you thought you're perhaps the better team?
JONATHAN ERLICH: Yeah, I definitely believe during all the match that we pretty controlling all the match. We was a break up in the beginning. Unfortunately, I think I didn't serve that well, but still stayed quite focused and aggressive on my serve. I think I was pretty low percentage on my first serve. Andy played unbelievable with his serve. I think they didn't even win too many service games easy, you know. I think we could break them almost all the service games. So we were pretty fortunate.
I think it was a little bit easier than what it looks, you know, which is the opposite during the tournament: it was easy scores and tough matches. Today I think we had the opportunity to win some more games. We could do it a little bit easier.
ANDY RAM: We came confidence (sic) to the final.
JONATHAN ERLICH: We had a bottle of champagne, so excuse me for that.
ANDY RAM: We didn't lose a set all tournament. We came strong to the final. We knew the attitude is going to win the match. We did it. We looked strong out there today. Yeah, that's what won the match. I think the last few points, when the attitude was there, we were fighting hard, we were much more hungry I think than Llodra/Clement today. Maybe they have a Grand Slam title already, that's why, or couple of Grand Slam titles, Llodra.
It was a great feeling.

Q. You've never won a Grand Slam title before. For you it's a bit of a new experience, Jonathan.
JONATHAN ERLICH: Yeah, it's amazing experience. You know, I mean, I was waiting for it all my life. I mean, I was as a kid looking at the TV, watching at the Grand Slams, at the champions. I would never believe I'll be here. Very fortunate to be here.
It's amazing tournament. It's amazing atmosphere. It's amazing title to win. Something that every person in life, you know, experiences the dream to be in this position right now.
I can't really describe. Looked maybe quite tough. Andy said, How can you stay so calm?
ANDY RAM: Even we win a Grand Slam, he never like doing crazy stuff.
JONATHAN ERLICH: I cannot get out of my skin, even though I'm quite drunk already (smiling).

Q. So often outside of your country we hear about Israel in the context of conflict, trouble, tragedy. What does it mean to you to sort of put a different face on Israel?
JONATHAN ERLICH: I mean, this is one of our purpose in all the tour. We always felt that we are one of the ambassadors of Israel, you know. I think we doing quite good job, I think. We get a great feedback of the people. We trying always to talk different about the country. I think it's a great country, great people around.
Obviously the news make it extremely bad. You know, I was talking yesterday with the driver, driving back to the hotel. And he told me, Oh, where you from?
I told him, From Israel.
He said, How it's like there?
I'm say, It's amazing country, it's amazing state. I'm on the beach during when I'm in Israel.
He couldn't believe it. He said, In Israel, all the time fighting, conflicts.
I tried to explain him a little bit differently.
That's more or less the job that we're doing day in and day out, during all our career. I think we're doing pretty good job, you know. Even yesterday I spoke with some American guy. He told me that we doing a good job for Israel, so I'm glad for that.
ANDY RAM: The Israeli ambassador told us we are the best ambassadors for Israel.

Q. He was jumping up and down.
ANDY RAM: Unbelievable. We saw him today with all the embassy people, workers, everybody. They come like 20 guys today and support with the flags. Every time we serve, we could see the flags. It's amazing feeling. All the supporters, the crowd, the songs. They brought the flags that they throw on us. It's great having this much support, you know, like Israelis travelling here, the Jewish people. It's great. Every city in the world that we go we feel the support. It's a good one. I can tell you, it's really helping us a lot.

Q. Shahar is going to Doha. Are you going to do the same thing? Is that a good thing for tennis?
ANDY RAM: It's a great thing for tennis. It's a great thing, I think. We don't have to involve like, you know, everybody says politics with the sport. Arab country, Israelis. I don't think we have to involve anything in sport according to politics or religions.
It's a great thing. I think it's a big thing that she's going to Doha. Jonathan and myself thought to go to Dubai. Maybe if she come back alive after, we thinking about it (smiling). It's easy to go there.
No, just kidding.
I believe it's going to be safe for us. 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. All the top 20 players always playing there, the best doubles team. It's a big tournament to play. We want to play there. I heard it's a great country.
I don't see a reason why not to go there and play. I mean, experience a new thing. Jonathan is a little bit more afraid.
JONATHAN ERLICH: I'm not afraid.
ANDY RAM: He's not afraid to go there; he's afraid not to come back.
But, no, I think it's going to be okay. If the Sheik of Dubai will accept to give us a visa, I don't see a reason why not to go.

Q. You will try to go this year? That's your plan?
ANDY RAM: That's one of our plans. We talked about it. We didn't decide a hundred percent yet. But definitely it's something new we want to do.
JONATHAN ERLICH: Like to experience.
ANDY RAM: We like to experience, to put it in our book in the future.

Q. Have you applied for a visa yet?
JONATHAN ERLICH: We're right now actually in progress with the ATP, to see they will progress with that, with the tournament, with the people necessary at the tournament. And we trying to keep it low profile right now to see how it goes. You know, we don't want really to do a big news here or there before we really know what's the situation right now.

Q. What will you be playing between here and then?
ANDY RAM: Davis Cup.
JONATHAN ERLICH: We have Davis Cup next two weekends from now, playing Sweden for the first time after like 15 years, World Group. It will be very exciting for us. And then we play probably Marseille, Rotterdam.
ANDY RAM: I can tell you it will be much more pressure than playing here. Playing in Israel, after winning the Australian Open, it will be unbelievable with the Israeli crowd, 5,000 people sitting on the court.

Q. Do you think Israelis appreciate the greatness of winning a Grand Slam?
JONATHAN ERLICH: Definitely. The follow-up that we had during the two weeks and even now, I mean, they even bought the rights for this, especially for this. The Israeli channel didn't show it all the tournament. The main channel, channel No. --
JONATHAN ERLICH: Doesn't matter.
ANDY RAM: He's a little bit drunk. It's okay.
JONATHAN ERLICH: The bought the right, the winning yesterday of Shahar Peer and ours. The follow-up that we got yesterday and today was unbelievable. So definitely it's a big thing. Especially it's an Olympic year, you know, so in Israel they do a big thing of it.
ANDY RAM: It's winning a Grand Slam. It's the biggest thing in tennis. I think a Grand Slam, after singles, it's doubles. And obviously winning a Grand Slam is the best you can get. We're doubles specialists. I mean, it can't get any better for us. It's biggest tournaments in the world, the best players.
JONATHAN ERLICH: Maybe better champagne next time.
ANDY RAM: The best teams are playing. So, of course, it's big for Israel. We got phone calls from all the country. I think they watch the match. They know the result. They know we're in the final. They keep following us the last four years, five years.
It's big for a small country like Israel to get Shahar Peer in the finals, us winning the title, semifinal mixed doubles, quarters in mixed. It's big, you know. You don't see USA in the finals here in this tournament, not in doubles, not in mixed, not in singles. Like an empire. So I think it's big.
JONATHAN ERLICH: Next time politics problem with the USA just because of this.

Q. Remind us how you came to play together.
JONATHAN ERLICH: I can say by mistake. Not by mistake, but coincidence. Around 2003 Andy SMS'd me. I was in Nottingham qualifying. I lost second round. Andy SMS'd me from Wimbledon, played the quallies of singles, SMS'd me to come over to Wimbledon to play the quallies with him. That's more or less was one of my last weeks of tennis because different situations. I was getting divorced. I was economically not so good, you know. The only reason I came, believe it or not, was the per diem that they give for the qualifying.

Q. How much was it?
ANDY RAM: £35 -- no, £70.
JONATHAN ERLICH: Doesn't matter. Covered the night at the hotel.
From there we qualified and make semifinal on the first week or the first tournament of us. From there everything is history, you know, so. Cinderella story.

Q. You won without dropping a tennis. Can you say it's the best tennis of your life?
ANDY RAM: I can say it's the best tennis, it's the best attitude. We were ready to win a Grand Slam. Finally we were ready to win a Grand Slam. The attitude on the court from the first point, we play like it's a match point of the final. We played every point the same, without losing concentration, without losing energy. I think it's a big improvement for us.
JONATHAN ERLICH: I think we won almost all the chances, the opportunities to win it. We won maybe 95% of the breakpoints we had, you know. That's what it's all about. You know, so we took all our chances. I'm sure our psychologist will be very happy about that.

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