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Game, set, match for Jacqui Boyd

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South African tennis star Jacqui Boyd has now won a total of nine Maccabiah medals, including seven golds. In this year’s Maccabi Games, her fifth time competing, she successfully defended her singles title by winning the Masters 35-plus category on 24 July.

She won 6-0 6-2 in the final against an Israeli, and dropped only four games in the whole tournament. Three days earlier, she bagged gold in the Masters Mixed Doubles with her Argentinian partner, Esteban Bluvol, whom she had never played with before.

“It feels amazing,” says Boyd, who first competed at the games in 1993 as a 14-year-old. “Being the defending champion brought a little bit of pressure because people are gunning for you and know you. I had probably one of the toughest draws I could have had.”

On top of that, Boyd had to play all her matches at around noon in the sweltering heat. “I’m relieved as well as tired mentally and physically,” she says.

En route to the singles final, she came up against one Argentinian and then just Israelis, many of whom were Russian-Israelis. “We joked when I said, ‘It’s Jacqui versus Israel’,” says Boyd. “I never got drawn against any of the other countries such as Britain and Australia.”

The standard of her opponents was higher than her previous Maccabiah, she says. “My age group was probably the strongest age group. The Israelis were tough, and there were one or two tough Argentinians. I think some of the other countries weren’t as strong.”

Boyd met Bluvol a few years ago at a World Senior Tennis Championships event. “When I saw him after 2017, he said, ‘In 2021 or 2022, we must play.’ We played very well. We beat a top Israeli couple [6-2 6-3] in the final, a really good match with a lot of people watching.

She says this year’s Maccabi Games has been great. “I’ve stayed in Netanya for the first time. All the master tennis players and master soccer players have been together here in a beautiful hotel on the beachfront. The vibe is amazing. You sit in the lobby and chat with everybody – people from Argentina, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, Canada, France, and Switzerland. We all have the same commonalities, the same passion for Judaism, sport, and travel. You bond instantly.”

When Boyd first arrived at the hotel, two Argentinian girls started shouting, “Jacqui! Jacqui!”

“They remembered me from 2017,” she says. “I was excited to see them. Year on year, you sometimes see the same faces, but you also see new faces. Most people are really competitive, but you’re also here to meet people and have a good time.”

During the closing ceremony, everyone sang and danced, says Boyd, one of South Africa’s flag-bearers at the opening ceremony. “We might not all speak the same language, but we all sang Hatikvah together. It was special.”

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