MIAMI — Tennis Canada hired top Israeli coach Oded Jacob recently to head its junior development group in British Columbia
“We are fortunate to have hired one of the best coaches in the world to identify talented youngsters in tennis,” said Ryan Clark, chief executive of Tennis BC, who selected Jacob over other top candidate. “Oded will take our youngsters and turn them into international champions. You don’t go out and get a guy of Oded’s talent without having a lofty goal in mind.”
Despite the fact Israel has less money for tennis than nations such as France, Spain or the United States, Jacob has been held in high esteem in tennis circles for his stellar achievements. He nurtured Israeli tennis players Shahar Peer, Dudi Sela and Harel Levy from their teens, helping them develop into world-class players over the past 15 years.
Jacob was instrumental in achieving several milestones for Israel. Two players he developed – Peer and Sela – led Israel to a World Group Fed Cup berth in 2008 and the 2009 Davis Cup semifinals respectively. When Peer was ranked No. 11 earlier this year, she became the highest ranked Israeli ever in tennis.
Although Jacob is elated to be working with Tennis Canada, he would never have left Israel if, in his view, the emphasis on development had been as strong now as it was in the past.
“I was proud of my work with Dudi, Harel and Shahar, but now Israel is not developing our youngsters in tennis to keep our level high for the next generation. So, with deep regret, I decided to leave Israel and will work with the Canadians as they have the right tools, attitude and outlook to develop future tennis champions,” said the 46-year-old Jacob.
“Tennis Canada is looking to expand its high performance program in British Columbia, as it did in Montreal and Toronto. I am excited and eager to be a part of the program to develop Canadian youth in tennis. Of all the achievements I had in Israel, the most rewarding time was working with the youth. You see the growth right in front of your eyes, and that is exciting,” Jacob added.
Ironically, some of Jacob’s most noteworthy achievements with Israeli tennis players took place in Canada.
Jacob coached Levy to the most impressive result of his career when Levy finished as a finalist in the 2000 Rogers Cup (then called the Du Maurier Open) in Toronto, coming from qualifying to win six matches in a row before losing the title match to Marat Safin.
Levy’s achievement was one of the best performances by an Israeli athlete. “I was especially proud of what Harel did under those circumstances. It was a shame that Harel needed hip surgery soon after that tournament, as he was ranked in the top 50 and may have gone on to have a more stellar career than he had,” said Jacob.
Jacob also was the Fed Cup captain who guided Peer to two wins and Tzipi Obziler to an upset victory over Aleksandra Wozniak in an Israeli 3-0 sweep of Canada at the 2007 World Group Two playoff held in Kamloops.
Given recent success by Canadians over the past year in tennis, with Rebecca Marino and Milos Raonic both ranked in the top 50 on the professional circuits, Jacob has high expectations for the future.
“I am sure the work will pay off with a Canadian becoming an international champion soon,” he said.