Tennis player Shelly Krolitzky.
(photo credit: HOWARD BLAS)
As the massive US Open crowds shuffled in at on Friday morning for a coveted spot in Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand, a few dozen spectators gathered outside the 20 little known practice courts in Flushing Meadows.
The first round of boys and girls qualifiers got under way, with 32 boys and 32 girls battling for eight spots in each main draw of the US Open Junior Championships.
Israeli Shelly Krolitzky got off to a slow start, then easily defeated Rafaella Baquerizo of Ecuador, 6-4, 6-0.
In a match interview outside the practice court, the 17-year-old from Azur, told The Jerusalem Post
: “I had a little pressure on myself in the first set. I felt a little heavy on the court and it was hard to move. When I was down 4-1, I tried to loosen my hand and make it stronger. Then, I got in to the match.”
Krolitzky built on the victory by beating American Vanessa Ong 6-4, 7-5 in the second round of the qualifiers on Saturday, advancing to the main draw of a Grand Slam junior event for the first time. She will face American Abigail Desiatnikov next.
Krolitzky comes to New York from Canada, where she reached the second round in a juniors tournament.
She is accompanied at the US Open by Jan Pochter, who primarily serves as coach for Israeli junior, Yshai Oliel, who is in the main boys draw.
Oliel and Krolitzky are both members of the David Squad, an elite training organization of young Israeli tennis players. Krolitzky’s coach is not with her at the US Open. Her family is not able to accompany her either.
This has been a very busy tennis year for Krolitzky.
“I played most of year in junior’s tournaments on clay. I am now starting to play Futures ($10,000) tournaments, mostly in Israel but may start in a few weeks to play abroad.”
Krolitzky is also a member of Israel’s Fed Cup Team.
“The Fed Cup experience was amazing. I played doubles against Ukraine. It was a tough match. Even though I didn’t play singles, it was amazing how much I learned from watching all the players, like how Julia [Glushko] and Shahar [Peer] worked before, during and after each match.”
While Krolitzky has accomplished a great deal, she is still very much a teenager. She keeps in touch with friends and family members through WhatsApp and reads romance novels and plays card games with fellow players while on the road.
Krolitzky is entering the 12th grade and plans to serve in the army after graduation. Her busy tennis life makes schooling difficult at times.
“I try to go as much as I can,” notes Krolitzky playfully. “I go to a democratic school, so it is easier – I come, get what I miss, do a lot at home.”
Krolitzky plans to turn pro after her army service. Her tennis heroes include Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
“I really love Serena Williams. She is a great model. Nadal as well. I really love him. I love many players. Each player has stuff I can learn from.
With Djokovic, everything he does is fixed. Serena, her mentality is amazing. It is amazing to be here and see them.”
This is Krolitzky’s first trip to New York and she has thus far enjoyed exploring Times Square and Fifth Avenue.
If Krolitzky beats Desiatnikov in the first round of the main draw she will get to stay in New York even longer.
Yshai Oliel extended his stay at Flushing Meadows on Sunday with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Juan Carlos Manuel Aguilar of Bolivia. Oliel next faces boys’ No. 2 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia.