Israel quad tennis player dedicates Grand Slam win to rescued hostages

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Israel quad tennis player dedicates Grand Slam win to rescued hostages

Guy Sasson won the Roland Garros wheelchair quad singles final on Saturday

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Israel’s Guy Sasson has won a first Grand Slam title on his debut at the Roland Garros tournament in Paris, beating Sam Schroder 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(7) for the Quad Wheelchair Singles title.

A thrilled crowd broke into cheers as Sasson, 44, dedicated his win to the four rescued Israeli hostages and roared “Am Yisrael Chai”.

Sasson’s win is all the more remarkable as he was able-bodied until a freak winter sports accident in 2015 left him partially disabled. But he was determined to recover — though not necessarily to become a tennis champion.

Wheelchair tennis has been a part of all four Grand Slams since 2007, and at the Summer Paralympics. There are two divisions – open and quads. Quads is for players who use wheelchairs and also have loss of function in at least one upper limb.

Now Sasson is looking forward to making his Wimbledon debut, speaking of it as “a dream come true” to play on the famous grass courts. He and his wife and four children, aged five, eight, 11 and 13, are living in Houston, Texas, at the moment, as his wife, a doctor, takes specialist medical training. He hopes very much to bring the family to Wimbledon, where he will be playing doubles with the British wheelchair quad athlete Andy Lapthorne.

Ranked number three in the world for both singles and doubles quad playing before his Roland Garros win, Sasson was just pipped to the post in Sydney last month by Sam Schroder in the Australian Open final. So his Paris victory over Schroder was all the sweeter.

He was buoyed up in Sydney by the enthusiasm of the local Jewish community, who turned out in droves to cheer him on, singing Hebrew songs and chanting “Bring Them Home” for the hostages. Sasson told Jewish News that he was incredibly grateful for the Australian support and hoped very much that British Jews would come to watch him play in the singles and doubles in Britain — first at Roehampton, in the warm-up for Wimbledon, on July 3-5, and then at Wimbledon itself from July 10.

Sasson grew up in Ramat Gan, served in the Israel Defence Forces, attended the University of Michigan, and went into business, particularly in real estate and property management.. He became a wheelchair user in 2015, after falling off a cliff while snowboarding in France.

He told JNS news service that “they flew me to Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel, I had major surgery on my spine and hand, and the doctors told me I won’t walk again”. But after a year in rehab, Sasson did walk out—“with braces and canes.”

Keen to stay active, he contacted the Israel ParaSport Centre in Ramat Gan. After seeing the tennis facilities and learning that Ofri Lankri, a professional tennis player who played on Israel’s 2014 Fed Cup team, would be serving as a coach, Sasson, who played tennis when he was a child, became interested. He started slowly and without sharing the news with others. “At first, I didn’t tell anyone—not even my wife.”

Now Guy Sasson is on top of the world and is thrilled to be making his first London appearance. And then he is headed back to Paris for the Paralympics later in the summer.













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