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Israeli Wheelchair Tennis Star Wins Grand Slam and Honors Hostages' Return

Guy Sasson's Triumph and the Joyous News from Gaza.

When Guy Sasson stepped onto Court 13 for the French Open Quad Wheelchair finals on Saturday, he was focused solely on the match ahead. Almost three hours later, he became the first Israeli player to win a Grand Slam wheelchair singles title, unaware that another significant event for Israel had just unfolded.

Sasson, the tournament's No. 3 seed at 44 years old, faced off against 22-year-old Sam Schroder from the Netherlands, the No. 2 seed and a six-time Grand Slam champion. The match was intense: Sasson won the first set 6-2, lost the second 3-6, and was down two match points in the super tiebreaker. His premature cheer at reaching seven points was corrected by the umpire, reminding him that 10 points were needed in a Grand Slam tiebreaker. With a laugh shared with his coach, Ofri Lankry, Sasson refocused and secured the tiebreaker to claim the title.

As Sasson left the court, he was met with the thrilling news of the rescue of four hostages from Gaza, albeit tempered by the loss of Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora during the operation. "After the match, I hugged my coach and psychologist, and they told me four were brought back alive," Sasson recounted. "I'm in shock – right after my huge thriller with ups and downs and I pulled it off – it was as if all the stars were aligned at the same moment."

Sasson humorously attributed some of his victory to divine intervention, while also crediting the systematic program he's been following. "It is a process I am going through and it will lead to the Paralympics," he said, looking ahead to the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

Reaching Roland Garros as the No. 3 seed was a significant milestone for Sasson. "After the Australian Open [where Sasson lost to Schroder in the finals 6-3, 6-3], I really wanted to win. I like and prefer clay. I like the bounce of the ball and felt I had a good chance. I started well by beating the No. 4 and then the No. 1 in the semifinals. Then it was Sam again in the finals. He is in great shape. I came prepared with good tactics. I believed in myself. I thought it could happen and it happened."

Later in the day, Sasson also competed in the quads men’s doubles finals with Andy Lapthorne of Great Britain. Despite a valiant effort, they lost 7-6, 6-1 to Schroder and fellow Dutchman Niels Vink.

Lankry, who shared the hostages' news, expressed immense pride in Sasson's achievement. "It’s an amazing feeling. We work and train so hard to improve every single element of Guy’s game. We came with good tactics this time, and Guy was determined to stick to it, and it worked."

Sasson's victory places him in an elite group of Israeli tennis champions, joining Shahar Pe'er, Jonathan Erlich, and Andy Ram. As Israel continues to face challenging times, Sasson's triumph brings a sense of pride and hope to the nation. Share this article or subscribe to our newsletter to follow more inspiring stories of Israeli resilience and success.