Sinai Says: Obziler shows her opponents the meaning of determination

At 34-years-young Israel's number two female tennis player is still aiming high.

Israeli sport has more than its fair share of problems, but not all is bleak. A prime example of all that is good in the country's sport is Tzipi Obziler. The soon to be 35-year-old tennis player is a true sportswoman, an athlete who is spurred on by competition and not by cash. Despite not being the tallest or strongest player on tour, Obziler continues to push herself as far as possible every day, believing that there are no shortcuts to victory and that hard work is the key. Obziler's route to her current success, however, was anything but straightforward. At the age of 27 she decided she had enough of professional tennis after a sponsor surprisingly dropped his support. For almost two years Obziler coached young talents, but continued to play for Israel's Fed Cup team despite being retired. "I had a shoulder injury which kept me out for a few months and one of my sponsors who had supported me for years surprisingly stopped helping out. I decided that I couldn't be bothered to go through all the bureaucracy once again and decided I had enough with tennis," Obziler told The Jerusalem Post of her decision to retire. In July 2002 in Springfield, Missouri, a weekend of superb tennis and a few words from legend Billie Jean King made Obziler realize that her departure from the professional game was premature. Israel may have lost its Fed Cup tie against the US 5-0, but Obziler pushed Monica Seles and Lindsey Davenport all the way in both her matches and the words of encouragement from the US's captain King persuaded her to come out of retirement. "I wasn't planning to return, but what she said brought me back. King told me that she can't understand how a player that plays at such a high level and has such talent isn't on tour," she says. "It renewed my appetite for success. The results I recorded against Seles and Davenport made me believe again that if I play tennis full-time I can compete at the highest level." The return, however, wasn't followed by the long-awaited breakthrough. Obziler failed to break into the world's top-100 and it seemed as though her career was drawing to a disappointing close. Her drive and determination, however, never wavered and a coaching change at the end of 2006 saw Obziler rise all the way to No. 75 in the world last summer. "I was always close to the top-100 and the work with my new coaching staff of Oded Jacob and Yuval Higer is the main reason behind my recent success," she says. Obziler dropped to No. 117 in this week's rankings, but she's confident that it won't be long before she regains her top-100 status. "I feel that I'm playing well at the moment, even though I haven't won that many matches recently. Almost all the matches I've lost this year have been to top players who are much better than me," she says. "I prefer to look at the full half of the glass. I'm in good shape and I need to continue to work hard and remain optimistic. I'm training very hard with the hope that everything will come together soon. "I believe that by the time we play the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup in April I will be back in the top-100. I hope I will still have a chance to meet the Olympic criteria as well [top-50 ranking]. I'm doing my best to make that happen." Despite being 34-years-young, Obziler isn't planning to retire again any time soon and intends to play at least until the end of 2009. "I'm not thinking about retirement at the moment. I'm still enjoying myself and physically I'm still strong. I'm not deluding myself, however, and I realize that I won't be playing five years from now," she says. Seven months ago Obziler became a mother after her partner Hadas gave birth to Lihi. A full night of sleep may only be a distant memory now, but Obziler believes that the birth of her daughter has only helped her game. "I have a lot more energy now," she says. "I might not always be able to have a full night of sleep, but I'm still training and working just as hard as I used to. If you look at my results from last year you can see that I did much better in the first few months after the birth. That's no coincidence."