ITEC alum and former Israel Junior Champion Gilad Bloom was introduced to the game of tennis at the ITEC – Ramat Hasharon when the facility first opened in 1976. He had a short 10-minute walk to the center, and Gilad actually started playing there even before it officially opened by sneaking onto the courts with his friends. Later, he remembers being one of hundreds of children invited to take part in early training exercises with top Israeli players and coaches. While he found it to be intimidating, it was also a wonderful place to learn the game.
“Being so close to the center allowed me play often from when I first started at the age of 9. From that point until I retired 20 years later I was coached by the same talented individuals who also taught some of Israel’s greatest players, including Amos Mansdorf and Dudi Sela.”
Not that Gilad had to take a back seat to anyone he competed against. Besides his junior championship ranking, he was a 4-time doubles champion and runner-up in three top-level singles events. He was also Israel’s men’s singles champion 3 times and twice in doubles. In addition, Gilad played on Israel’s Davis Cup team from 1984 – 1995, helping Israel to qualify for the 1994 Davis Cup World Group, winning the qualifying playoff match against Switzerland’s Jakob Hlasek in one of the most remarkable matches in Israeli tennis history. His best singles performance at a Grand Slam event was at the 1990 US Open, where he reached the 4th round before being knocked out by former world champion and #1 ranked player Ivan Lendl.
Since retiring from active competition, Gilad has had his own very successful tennis program (Gilad Bloom Tennis) as well as being the first Director of Tennis at the prestigious John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York City. But perhaps his most lasting memories were the life lessons he learned while playing at the ITEC in Ramat Hasharon.
“There were many values that I was taught that really guided me throughout my adult life. Things like sportsmanship, being a class act, being dependent on my own abilities and remembering the importance of good manners. They were all lessons that I help instill in other young people that I train. The ITEC was like a second home to me. In fact, even now I am working on a plan to bring some children from the US back to Israel to train at the Academy in Ramat Hasharon. I know how much it meant to me, and I want to give back so that others can benefit from the same positive experience.”