Shlomo Glickstein has been at the forefront of Israeli tennis for nearly four decades.
He was Israel’s first world class player, reaching a career-high of No. 22 in the ATP rankings in 1982, inspiring an entire generation of players along the way.
The 58-year-old is still Israel’s alltime leader in Davis Cup wins, registering 44 in total, and helped the national team advance to the quarterfinals of the competition in 1987.
Glickstein remained involved in tennis following his retirement and has been making a difference perhaps more than ever before since his appointment as the CEO of the Israel Tennis Association in 2012.
With the new tennis season to officially get under way next week, Glickstein is optimistic 2017 will be a good year for Israeli tennis.
Israel’s No. 1 Dudi Sela, who is ranked at No. 96 in the world, has carried local men’s tennis on his shoulders for nearly a decade. The 31-year-old said last week that he is feeling better than ever and is determined to return to the top 50.
“I think that is certainly a realistic goal. The older he gets the better he gets,” Glickstein told The Jerusalem Post. “He’s in good shape and has prepared well for the new season. I think that if he gets 2017 off to a good start he has a chance to return to the top 50. He certainly has the ability to do so.”
Sela has become a father of two over recent years and Glickstein believes that has also helped his game.
“He feels good physically and he has matured. He knows a lot more than he did in the past,” he explained. “He has a very supportive family and that helps him in the mental aspect. If everything falls into place he is definitely worth a spot in the top 50.”
Sela has been unchallenged as the Israel No. 1 for much of the past decade, in large part due to Amir Weintraub’s struggles to realize his potential.
The 30-year-old, currently ranked at No. 231, was placed as high as No.
161 in 2012, but never quite managed to make his breakthrough.
“If you are good enough, work hard enough and also have a bit of luck you will reach the top 100,” said Glickstein. “Amir hasn’t managed to combine all those aspects yet.
“I think he needs to be more serious, show more commitment and perhaps also work harder, both on his tennis and his fitness,” added Glickstein. “He could also use a little more luck and win significant matches, which he hasn’t managed to do so far.”
Weintraub made headlines in October when he attacked the ATP and ITF on Facebook, claiming that they aren’t doing enough to help players ranked outside the top 100 to earn a decent living.
“I know that the ATP and ITF are not going to like what I’m about to write, but this isn’t personal but rather a cry to help the sport I love so much,” wrote Weintraub. “All the players are talking all the time that they feel nothing is being done and that we are being exploited.”
Glickstein believes Weintraub is wasting precious energy waging offcourt campaigns.
“He will achieve greater success if he keeps his focus on tennis and not on other stuff,” he noted. “Tennis players need to prove themselves on the court. The road to the top is hard, long and winding. But there are a lot of tournaments and a lot of opportunities and a player who is actually good and knows how to win the important matches, as well as handle the pressure, will reach the top 100.”
Glickstein is optimistic there is a young group of Israeli players who could make a name for themselves this year, including 17-year-old Yshai Oliel, whose main focus in 2017 will be to succeed in the junior Grand Slam events.
“Edan Leshem and Daniel Cukierman registered the most significant breakthroughs in the past year and there are also several other decent players like Ben Patael, Tal Goldengoren and Yshai Oliel,” said Glickstein.
“They are all legitimate players who work hard and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The state of the women’s game in Israel isn’t quite as promising as the men’s. Julia Glushko (185) is coming off a frustrating year, Shahar Pe’er hasn’t played since February and has fallen out of the top 1,000 and few youngsters seem likely to make their breakthrough in the coming months.
“Julia went through a tough year, but she is very motivated to succeed,” said Glickstein. “She is older and more mature. The older you get the tougher it is to breakthrough, but she has already been in the top 100 and believes in herself.”
Glickstein doesn’t know exactly what Pe’er, who is currently training to run a marathon, is planning to do, but he can’t see her returning to the tour.
“I don’t know what is happening with Shahar. It isn’t very realistic for someone who hasn’t been playing to suddenly return, but there have been precedents,” he added. “I can’t see how she will return to the WTA Tour, but I don’t know what she is planning.”
Glickstein has big high hopes for Deniz Khazaniuk (248), the new national champion.
“She said her goal is to enter the top 150 and I believe she can do that. She is talented, committed and works very hard,” he said about the 22-year-old.
Glickstein also confirmed Khazaniuk will return to Israel’s Fed Cup team in February from which she has been absent since falling out with Pe’er and Glushko and attacking them in an interview she gave over four years ago.
“I’m happy to be opening the new season with the knowledge that I will be finally playing for the national team,” Khazaniuk said on Tuesday.
“There is no better feeling than knowing that hard work pays off. I will do my best to help the national team and to represent Israel the way I always wanted to.”
While he admits that there aren’t as many up-and-coming female players as there are male, Glickstein believes the likes of Shelly Krolitzky , Maya Tahan and Julia’s sister, Lina Glushko, all have the potential to record significant success.
“I’m always optimistic. We are doing a lot to support all our players,” he added. “There has been a positive buzz around Israeli tennis in the past couple of years, but it is a long process. We are heading in the right direction but we need to be patient. Israeli tennis will improve with every passing year.”email@example.com