An article about Glushko in Haaretz:
Tennis / The ball is in her court
Newly crowned Israel champion Julia Glushko: 'This is my life and I wouldn't give it up for anything'.
By Uri Talshir
The joy of becoming Israeli tennis champion was almost too much for Julia Glushko to bear. On Sunday, 48 hours after her shock victory over Shahar Peer in Friday's final, Glushko spent the day running between her pre-scheduled training sessions and the television studio, where everyone wanted to interview the newly crowded champ. By Sunday evening, exhaustion had set in, accompanied by a fever, a sore throat and a thumping headache. The 21-year-old rising star of Israeli tennis collapsed and was told to rest in bed.
"It's just a case of overexcitement," she told Haaretz after recovering her strength. "It's not the first time that this has happened to me. After the U.S. Open, too, I came back to Israel and suddenly got sick. Before the final against Shahar, I wasn't thinking about winning or losing, but I knew deep down that I was capable of beating her.
"Last year, I came very close and that's given me loads of confidence. After the winning point, I really didn't know what to do or say. I just screamed, 'Oh my god!' a few times and started to shake. That was definitely one the highlights of my career."
Glushko has been considered the rising star of Israeli tennis for several years. Until now, however, and notwithstanding one or two stand-out results, she hasn't had the kind of breakthrough everybody has been waiting for. And despite her being 206th in the world, according to the latest WTA rankings, she feels more ready than ever to take her career up to the next level.
"I used to have matches in which my level of play would drop off for several games," she explains. "But now that only happens for a few points. I am a lot more stable mentally and a lot more mature as a person and a tennis player. I play a much more patient game and my shot choices are a lot better. I don't get stressed out in the money time and I play every point until the very end. These are little things that come together to make a huge improvement in my game."
Schlomo Tzoref, who used to coach Glushko and is now a freelance consultant, believes that the difference between winning and losing against Peer in Friday's final was the fact that Glushko was willing to take risks. "That's a sign of maturity and proves that she has grown as a player," he says.
Striking while the iron is hot
On Sunday, Glushko was the guest of honor at a dinner to celebrate her victory. The 20 other people who attended are part of the team that has contributed - sometimes on a volunteer basis - to what they refer to as the Julia Project. Among them were coaches Assaf Ingber and Avihai Tzahala, fitness coach Costa Matovich, Pilates instructor Maya Amitai and sports psychologist Michal Ya'aron.
"The fact that so many people believe in me gave me a lot of confidence," says Glushko, when asked what she believes is the reason for her improvement. "It had a very positive impact on my commitment to tennis. I understood that I need to be 100 percent committed to the sport, to give all I have to it. When I was a teenager, I had loads of friends and lots of distractions and I think that I have put all that behind me. I have also become stronger physically; I've lost a lot of weight and the hard work is starting to pay off."
Now that her on-court performances are reason for optimism, Glushko isn't afraid to look back at less pleasing periods of her career.
"Obviously," she says, "not every decision I have taken has been the right one. But I have learned from my mistakes and I refuse to dwell on the past. Two years ago, I went through something of a crisis and now I'm trying to put that part of my life out of my mind.
"I took a two-month break from everything and now I am in a much better place. I have a lot more motivation. I need to focus completely on tennis and, if I can do that, there's no reason I can't succeed. I am physically talented enough and my tennis is improving all the time. If I give everything I've got, good things will happen."
Tzoref believes that one of Glushko's main problems was that she was "very childish."
According to Tzoref, "The moment she becomes more of a balanced person, she will be able to beat any player in the world, because of her excellent technique, her strength and her chutzpah. She really doesn't care what anyone thinks. All she needs is for all of these elements to come together on the international circuit for one straight month and not every two months.
"Now is the time for her to recoup the investment she's made in her career since the age of four. If this isn't her breakout year, it will probably never happen. She has to strike while the iron is hot. And she has the financial backing of Israel Tennis Federation chief Assi Tuchmayer, so she doesn't have to worry about that."
15, not 40
Despite the new wave of optimism in the Glushko camp, the new Israeli champion still doesn't have a sponsor who can provide the security she needs to complete her breakthrough. "Tennis is an expensive sport," she says, "and I need my coach with me all the time. I can't make the leap to the next level alone. I hope that the right people saw how I performed in the Israeli Championships and that they noticed my potential, and maybe someone will come forward to help."
Is your current world ranking representative of where you should be?
"Absolutely not. I want to start this year well, to make it through the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open and to end the year somewhere around the 100 mark. I know that my tennis is up to the task and all I need is for everything to fall into place. I need a few good wins to give me the push and to firm up my confidence. I am starting the new year in a confident frame of mind and I know that the sky's the limit."
Did Shahar Peer congratulate you on becoming Israeli champion?
'We're friends; we spoke yesterday and everything's good between us. People asked me whether I was upset that in her post-match interviews, she talked mainly about her mistakes - but it's only natural that she feels that way. We all know that she's been going through a tough patch. I don't think that losing to me will affect her and I hope she has a fantastic year. I know Shahar very well and I know what kind of tennis she can play. She made more mistakes in our game than she usually does, but I won because I played well."
How is this media circus affecting you?
"It isn't. I experienced something similar when I was playing for the Fed Cup team. It's nice, but I know that it will die down after a day or two; then everyone moves on. I just hope I continue to play this well all year and that the media always wants to talk to me. Shahar is always in the limelight because she's a symbol; I am trying just to focus on myself, so that doesn't really bother me."
Tzoref is well aware of the differences between Israel's two top female tennis players.
"Julia's quite a handful," he says, "but her team knows how to handle her and to protect her talent. Shahar has some technical problems, but in every other respect, she's perfect. For Julia, exactly the opposite is true: Her technique is perfect and all she needs to do is make sure her head is in the game. She's like a racing car: All it takes is a few tweaks and she goes flying."
Glushko, for her part, is just coming to terms with the dichotomy between her childish part and the demands of a career as professional tennis player. "Sometimes I feel like a 15-year-old," she says, "and sometimes I feel like I'm 40. Most people my age haven't been through everything I have been through - the pressure, the ups, the downs and the mental challenges. Most people my age are just finishing their army service, but my situation is different - and fun. I love it. This is my life and I wouldn't give it up for anything. My dream is to win a Grand Slam and, hopefully, to look back on my career and to be able to tell myself that I did all that I was capable of."