Andy Ram, one of Israel's Davis Cup by BNP Paribas stalwarts over the past decade as a doubles player with regular partner Jonathan Erlich, has announced he will retire from the game after the upcoming World Group play-off tie at home against Argentina in September.
Apart from being Israel's most successful doubles team both in Davis Cup and on the pro circuit, Ram, 34, has endeared himself to sports fans throughout the country as a favourite hero, much thanks to his extrovert personality and his sense of humour.
"The time has come, today is the day, it is time to hang up the rackets after a long career," Ram told an invited audience when making the announcement in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
"I have been involved in tennis since the age of five and today I'm 34, it has been a very long path during which I have experienced many things and I would not exchange them for anything... all the injuries, the victories, I will never forget them," Ram said.
Montevideo-born Ram has represented Israel in Davis Cup in 27 ties since first being called to the flag in 2000. He and regular partner Erlich, 37, have had remarkable success at the centre of the Davis Cup team and have delivered the crucial doubles point that has often swayed ties for Israel against the odds.
The "Andyoni" brand, as it became known at home, thrilled the crowds and gained cult status. Any match with the two on court drew in the crowds and stirred emotions. On several occasions, they turned around what looked like a lost cause to win their rubber and contribute crucially to a victory that made all Israeli sports fans very proud.
Such was the case when Israel reached the Davis Cup semifinals by beating Russia in Tel Aviv in 2009 when the two thrilled a packed indoor arena to beat Igor Kunitsyn and Marat Safin in five gruelling sets.
The two teamed up for Israel 23 times, winning 18 of their encounters and Ram added three more Davis Cup doubles encounters with Amir Hadad, Harel Levy and Noam Behr - his debut appearance - as part of his record.
Ram and Erlich first made their mark at Wimbledon in 2003 as unknown qualifiers, reaching the semifinals before being defeated by defending champions, Jonas Björkman and Todd Woodbridge. Along the way they edged out three seeded teams, including the No. 2 pair Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor. It was the first time an all-Israeli pair had reached a Grand Slam semifinal.
Ram added to that auspicious event by also reaching the mixed doubles semis with Anastasia Rodionova, then of Russia, before falling to Martina Navratilova and Leander Paes. He was not disappointed for too long, however, and won two mixed doubles crowns, partnering Vera Zvonareva at Wimbledon in 2006, a first-ever title at the All England Club for an Israeli, and the following year at Roland Garros, alongside Nathalie Dechy.
Many more milestones were to follow for the two players, including their most memorable victory when they lifted the Australian Open crown in 2008 by beating French pair Arnaud Clément and Michael Llodra in a closely contested final.
Erlich suffered an elbow injury the following year during a Davis Cup tie against Sweden and was sidelined for almost two seasons. Ram was forced to seek alternative partners, and he could do little better than teaming up with Belarusian Max Mirnyi. The two reached the final of the ATP World Tour Finals in 2009, ultimately losing to Bob and Mike Bryan.
With Erlich, Ram also represented Israel at the last three Olympic Games, most notably knocking out Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka at London 2012 before being defeated in the quarterfinals by the Bryan brothers, the eventual gold medalists.