The ATP Istanbul Challenger culminated on Sunday evening with a historic match-up between Turkey’s Malek Jaziri and Israel’s Dudi Sela. The meeting took place nearly three years after Jaziri was pressured by his tennis federation to withdraw from a match against an Israeli.
The No. 74 ranked Sela defeated Mario Chiudinelli 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday’s semi-final, while world No. 70 Jaziri also defeated Germany’s Tobias Kamke in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. The final lasted three sets, where Jaziri cemented a 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 finish to claim his sixth ATP Challengers title. However, while the actual match was certainly not the highest quality contest that either competitor has ever played, it was a momentous meeting between competitors from two nations with significant tension.
Back in 2013, Tunisia’s tennis federation ordered Jaziri to withdraw from a match against Israeli opponent Amir Weintraub at the Tashkent Challenger event in Uzbekistan. The International Tennis Federation subsequently banned Tunisia from the 2014 Davis Cup for interfering with international sporting events.
Many believed that a repeat of that politically-charged incident took place at the Open Sud de France in 2015. Jaziri withdrew from his first round match against Denis Istomin while a set up, which ensured that he wouldn’t face Dudi Sela in the second round. The ATP probed the incident to determine whether the player purposely avoided the Israeli player. The ATP eventually confirmed that Jaziri’s retirement was due to an elbow injury verified by the ATP physiotherapist on-site.
“Following further discussions with Malek Jaziri, as well as consultations with tournament physiotherapists and doctors working on-site at last week’s ATP World Tour event in Montpellier, the ATP is fully satisfied as to the legitimacy of the player’s reasons for retiring from his match due to an elbow injury,” the ATP said in a statement. “Accordingly, this matter is considered closed.”
Various Arab nations and their governments have imposed boycotts against Israeli athletes due to the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel. A recent incident that shed light on the existing tension was Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby’s decision to not shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson following a first round loss.