Fieldwork: Net gain

Although she failed to convert four match points, Julia Glushko understands that the positives from her recent run in New York far outweigh the negatives.

Julia Glushko tennis 370 (photo credit: Julia Glushko’s Facebook page)
Julia Glushko tennis 370
(photo credit: Julia Glushko’s Facebook page)
To say that Julia Glushko’s US Open campaign ended with mixed emotions would be the understatement of the year.
The 23-year-old Israeli came through three rounds of qualifiers to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam tennis tournament for just the third time in her career. She went on to advance to the third round in New York with her first major wins, including against Nadia Petrova, a former world No. 3.
Nevertheless, Glushko returned home from the US with a bitter taste in her mouth.
There is no shame in a three-set third-round loss to Daniela Hantuchova, but the fact that she found herself four times within a single point of progressing to the last 16 of the prestigious event, and failed to convert all four of her match points, inevitably left Glushko with a sour feeling at the end of what was a breakthrough achievement.
“I have no regrets. I gave my all,” said Glushko at a press conference earlier this month following her return to Israel. “I fell apart after the match.
I usually recover quickly from defeats, but it will take me a few days to rebound from this. This was a painful defeat and not just because of the squandered match points.”
Despite frittering away what may well have been the chance of a lifetime, Glushko could still console herself in the knowledge that she climbed 29 places in the world rankings to No. 99 and entered the top-100 for the first time, a major step in a career that had failed to take off for so long.
Glushko has spent her career in the shadow of Shahar Pe’er, and it seemed that she would never escape it.
While Pe’er made her breakthrough as an 18-yearold, an age by which many of the leading players on the women’s tour are already peaking, Glushko was a late bloomer. Born in Ukraine, she immigrated to Israel with her family when she was nine years old.
Her talent was clear for all to see from an early age, but she spent more than three years battling to even break into the world’s top 300, finishing 2008, 2009 and 2010 ranked between 317 and 355.
The frustration at failing to realize her potential almost resulted in Glushko’s quitting, but three years ago she decided to put her faith in a coaching team headed by Asaf Ingbar. His guidance, combined with the financial support of the Israel Tennis Association, sowed the seeds of the success she is now reaping.
Despite her low ranking at the time, Glushko began to work with an expansive staff, including coach Liran Kling, who travels around the world with her, as well as fitness trainer Yoram Menachem.
The hard work didn’t pay off immediately, but Glushko has really begun to harvest the fruits of her labor this year. She claimed two small singles titles at ITF events – the $25,000 tournament in Innisbrook, Florida, and more recently the $50,000 event in Waterloo, Ontario – while also winning three qualifying matches at Roland Garros to reach the main draw of the French Open for the first time in her career.
Three months ago, Glushko’s consistent improvement, combined with Pe’er’s decline, saw the former become Israel’s top-ranked player for the first time.
After seven years, Pe’er officially lost her status as the Israel No. 1 after dropping 31 places to No. 171 in the world, while Glushko jumped 18 places to a then-career high of 131.
Pe’er has since rebounded to return to the top 100 and leapfrog over Glushko, but that has done nothing to shake the latter’s new-found confidence.
“Despite the huge disappointment at the US Open, the most important thing that I have taken from this experience is that I know that I can be up there with the best players and that I am good enough to vie for a top position,” said Glushko before crediting her coaches and the Israel Tennis Association for her latest success.
Glushko and Pe’er have always been good friends and, according to Glushko, her recent triumphs are not going to create a rivalry that could change it.
“Shahar and I have always been close. I always applaud her, and she always compliments me,” said Glushko, “I want to emulate her, and I hope we both manage to improve within the top 100.”
Glushko’s head coach, Ingbar, was understandably delighted with her impressive improvement.
“We are ending a three-year process with great success,” said Ingbar, sitting beside his protégée at the press conference. “We believe Julia is on her way up and could even crack the top 20. She really loves the game, and that is very important.”
Kling, on the other hand, preached for patience.
“Julia has always had the ability. She was only held back because of the mental aspect of the game,” he explained. “She still needs to stabilize her game, but a place in the top 50 is a realistic target.”
As heartbreaking as the defeat to Hantuchova was, Glushko has already turned her focus to the future.
She understands that the positives from her recent run in New York far outweigh the negatives, and she has no intention of allowing anything to stop her from realizing her dreams.
“People can say a lot of things about me, but I’m not a loser, I’m a fighter,” said Glushko. “I want to end the year ranked as high as possible, and I want to continue to work hard. If I continue down this road and remain healthy, there’s no reason I shouldn’t improve. I’d rather learn from wins; but despite the painful defeat, I have already got my sights set on my next goal.”