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Drori Reflects on Pennant Victory

Posted: 07-Sep-2015 by Tennis

Maccabi's number one Assaf Drori warming up before the Grand Final

Maccabi's Grade 3 Pennant winning side created history for the Club on Saturday, winning the Club's second ever Tennis Victoria Winter Pennant, just one year after an agonising loss in last year's Grand Final.

Assaf Drori, Maccabi's top player, with experience on the ATP Tour, was pivotal in the team's success and heralded the ''great team achievement''. As a youngster, Drori trained in his native Israel at the Israel Tennis Center in Jerusalem and also in Swaziland.

At the age of 13, he joined the John Newcombe Tennis Academy in Texas, playing with the likes of Lleyton Hewitt, then going on to play Division 1 College tennis in North Carolina for four years. Considered an 'elite athlete', he was even offered a special exemption by the Israel Tennis Association to postpone his compulsory military service. The classy lefthander's professional career was cut short and interrupted by injuries, particularly back injuries. Between 2001 and 2006, Drori played singles and doubles on the ATP Tour.

In mid-2014, Drori returned to competitive tennis with Maccabi, although he did play in some tournaments in the US and in the Israeli national league after his retirement from the Tour.

Drori serving in the 2015 Club Championships

ASSAF DRORI

What does it mean for you to play for Maccabi and represent a Jewish club at this level?

Representing the Club at this level is a big privilege and humbling. The Club takes a lot of pride in the competition. They are serious and professional. That made it easy for me to join in last year. It gives me pride to represent a Club that takes so much pride in itself. I've learnt a lot more about my game. 

It was a great feeling to see the support that we received throughout the season. That's what it's all about - the connection between everybody and it feels like one big family.

It is important for me to represent the Club, the organisation and the team and to be a part of it.

This is your second year for Maccabi. How sweet is the victory after last year’s Grand Final loss?

It makes it so much more. I joined the team halfway through last season and we only just made the top 4. It only feels like yesterday when we were sitting up on the balcony at Dendy Park after losing [the Grand Final] last year. It is hard to believe that a year went by and now we're in a different position.

We weren't satisfied with losing in the finals last year. We were all disappointed and some of us took it personally. It was an amazing season last year and a lot of fun but it wasn't enough. We couldn't be satisfied with a fairytale season but not come through in the Grand Final.

We all knew what our goal was this season - to hold that flag. We tried to take it one match at a time because we knew it would be a long season. We were feeling the urgency of making it to the finals' round and winning but you can't make time go quicker. We had to be patient and relaxed. The semi final [against Wellington] was very close in the end.

What about your teammates throughout the season?

The team aspect was a very natural thing for all of us. The professionalism and connections that were built between all of us in the team and the goals we set ourselves in the season from last season...made me feel motivated. We all took things seriously in practice and things just got clicked. It's a long season and without team chemistry, you cannot achieve anything. It was great having Rob [Minc] joining the team and also Arthur [Kaganovitch].

All of us gave our all during the season. We were all pushing each other. The best part of it was the team aspect.

We tried different combinations in doubles. I played doubles with Arthur [Kaganovitch] in one of the early rounds and he wasn't very confident then. But you can see just how much his movement has improved, he's a great listener, he's motivated and plays with confidence now.

The team will be automatically promoted to Grade 2 next season. How do you think the team can perform?

Going to the next division is great. Hopefully we can get back out there and continue on. We're not really concerned about the level being different. We're all pretty confident as players and we believe that we can do just as well. It's still far away and we just want to relax now! The season has been tough for our bodies.

 

MARCUS FRAJMAN

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