At 34 Obziler enchanted by tennis

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Kolkata, Sep 19 (UNI) Having given up tennis at 29 Tzipora Obziler figured the bigger picture of tennis in Bille Jean King's words and Lance Armstrong's life, which eventually put the faith in her to continue, no matter what.

Almost retiring from tennis at 29, Obziler had resigned herself to teaching junior players in Israel. Then something life-changing happened in the summer of 2002. Obziler was asked to fill a spot on Israel's national team on the verge of its Fed Cup tie against United States. She traveled with the squad to Springfield, Mo, and nearly upset three-time grand slam champion Lindsay Davenport, losing 2-6, 6-1, 7-6. This was not the event though! Billie Jean King approached her after that match and right in front of the Israeli team coach and the team's main sponsor she's asked her why didn't she play full time. ''I listened to what she said then I listened to my heart,'' Obziler said.

At 34, Obziler is proud to be a part of Israel's Fed Cup team.

If King was inspiration, the faith in life took roots firmly after reading ''Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life'' by Lance Armstrong.

''That book inspires me in several ways. It helps me to fight life and go for the goal no matter how tough it is,'' she said.

No wonder she found the book inspiring!! In the book Armstrong wrote, someone once asked him what pleasure he received from riding his bicycle for such long periods of time. He told the person that he did not understand the question.

''I didn't do it for the pleasure. Instead I did it for the pain,'' he wrote.

For her career, she's won 13 International Tennis Federation events, including last summer's Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington.

The fighting spirit in her was quite evidently visible from her enthralling 7-6(6), 6-7(8), 6-1 victory over ninth seed Yaroslava Shvedova in the ongoing Sunfeast Open here.

''I was not aggressive enough. I want to play harder and better,' she told UNI.

Asked how the year has been, she said, ''It was the Fed Cup that really put me on a high. Our team played some good tennis and now we are in the world group with a tie on the home soil.'' After more than a decade of playing Fed Cup ties away from home, Israeli players and fans were compensated generously on Friday. The women's team was drawn to host Russia at Ramat Hasharon in its first ever World Group tie next February.

A Fed Cup match has not been played in Israel since the blue-and-white defeated Lithuania 3-0 in March of 1996. The team has come a long way since and booked its place among the elite eight in July after winning its 11th consecutive tie, defeating Austria 4-1 in the World Group playoff.

The Israel Fed cup team consists of Shahar Peer, Tzipora Obziler and Anna Smashova.

Asked if the army years helped shape her character, she said, ''In army there are no short cuts. It teaches you discipline. I have learnt to take the best out of army and put to life.'' Tzipora signed off saying, ''I just want to play tennis, stay healthy and give my best. The rest will hopefully come through.'' UNI

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