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The 69-year tennis gap showing what Maccabi is all about

Posted: 25-Mar-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

There’s no better illustration of what representing Maccabi internationally can provide a sportsperson than the tennis contingent heading to the Pan-American Games in Mexico this year.

Comprised of 12 athletes, the team’s two headline acts sit at both ends of the spectrum.

At just 16 years of age, Alex Placek is ranked as the 49th best junior player in the country, and arguably one of the brightest Jewish talents across any sport in Australia. Incredibly, as Placek boards the plane in July, he’ll be accompanied by teammate and true Maccabi legend Bert Roseberg – aged 85.

For the burgeoning young gun, this experience will provide him with an opportunity to hone his skills on the international stage and gain a broader knowledge of the level of international competition he faces. Meanwhile, Rosenberg will add a second Pan-American Games to his six Maccabiah experiences and continues to bask in the joys of testing himself in competition abroad even at his age.

Bert Rosenberg is a true Maccabi legend

In fact, Bert is such an icon that competitors from other nations have been busily enquiring as to whether they’ll be able to reunite with him in Mexico City.

“Cuba and the United States have been calling and emailing to see whether Bert Rosenberg is coming,” team manager Lauren Ehrlich said.

“Many have even asked if they can partner up with him for doubles!”

 Contrastingly, Placek is competing in his first Maccabi Games. However, multiple experiences playing overseas will stand him in excellent stead to compete for a medal. The boom youngster has competed in both Slovakia and Germany of late, and is keen to represent the Jewish community while furthering his skills.

“First of all, I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to go and play part of the Jewish community through Maccabi,” Placek said.

“I feel like it’s a way to see more tennis players from different parts of the world and how they’re training. And just opening my perspective on how to improve, where I’m sitting and how I can get to the next level.”

Placek, who idolises Roger Federer and has already sought advice from Australia’s top-ranked player Alex de Minaur, dreams to one day play the sport professionally. The teen is currently training six times a week as he balances school and tennis in a gruelling schedule.

Ultimately, it’s his fighting spirit that makes him such a strong competitor.

“I’m a mix of many players, I’m very competitive and will always fight to the last point,” he said.

Alex Placek with his hero Roger Federer

“Whenever I step on court, no matter how I’m feeling, I want to win.”

The Emanuel School student, who first took up the game aged 7, is the headline act of a tennis contingent managed by another staple of the Maccabi family. Team manager Ehrlich heading to her third Pan-American Games. She was head of delegation four years ago in Chile, and will this time add playing duties to her management responsibilities.

“It’s in my blood regardless of being an athlete or manager,” Ehrlich said.

“I love the people, the vibe and watching everyone make new friends... learning about Jews from other countries is such an inspiration!”

Placek and Rosenberg may be at completely different ends of the age range, but both will be competing in green and gold in Mexico and gunning to come home with their luggage a little heavier.