Hampstead tennis prodigy representing Great Britain at Maccabiah Games
- Credit: Archant
A 15-year-old from Hampstead is representing Great Britain at the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel, having raised money for the trip and for charity by organising a tennis tournament.
Max Benaim, who lives in Clorane Gardens and attends University College School, has been selected to represent his country at the Games – the world’s third largest sporting event – which starts today.
Max has been selected as part of a nine-strong British tennis squad and he will compete in the singles, the doubles and the mixed doubles.
The tournament involves a group phase followed by a knock-out stage and his coach at Cumberland Tennis Club in West Hampstead, performance director David Turfrey, believes the young star will benefit hugely from the experience.
“Max is hard-working and he’s improved a lot in the last year and a half,” he said. “I think he can get through a good few rounds, but a lot will depend on the draw.
“There will be players there who are in the top 100 in the ITF [International Tennis Federation] – a few of the lads who were playing in Junior Wimbledon recently – so if he comes up against a seeded player that would be tough.
“Whatever happens, it’s a great experience for him to represent his country in an international tournament.
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“We watched quite a bit of Wimbledon with the boys at the club. I’m sure that will have inspired him, and he plays in a similar kind of style to Andy Murray – he’s a counter-puncher and a good mover.
“Max went to watch the boys’ final at Wimbledon and that will probably have given him plenty of extra motivation as well. That’s the next step for Max really – to be trying to get into Junior Wimbledon in the next couple of years.”
The Maccabi Games, which is commonly dubbed the ‘Jewish Olympics’, takes place in Israel every four years and involves over 9,000 participants from 71 countries.
Since spectators are not charged to watch the events, the competitors must shoulder all of the costs themselves, and Max’s parents asked him to raise half of the £4,000 fee himself.
He made £1,000 by coaching, restringing rackets, putting birthday money in his Maccabiah pot and selling crisps and sweets.
He then raised a further £1,800 from a hugely successful fundraising tennis tournament and tea at Chandos Tennis Club in Golders Green.
There were 51 participants between the ages of six and 56 and the winners included Michael Helfgott, who won the men’s singles title, and Joseph Salt, the victor in the Under-12 category.
Meanwhile, spectators mingled, sipped Pimms and ate strawberries and cream.
Max’s mother Nadia said: “The feedback from people who attended was phenomenal.
“One said it had reawakened her husband’s love of the game, another said her son now wanted to take regular lessons, and a third said that it was the first time her daughter had entered a competition and she loved it so much she wants to do more. Many have suggested that it becomes an annual event.”
Having raised £800 more than had been asked of him, Max donated the extra cash to the Maccabi programme for physically challenged children who are sent to Israel with their carers for the trip of a lifetime.