Israel’s Big Apple Main-Draw Hopes Dashed

Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

Plucky Glushko can’t overcome cough, Zavatska in first-round of qualifiers • Sela also ousted

NEW YORK – The Yiddish-originating adage of “man plans, and God laughs” applies even to professional tennis players. All the best coaching, practice sessions, healthy eating and natural talents cannot guard against life’s unpredictable occurrences. On Tuesday, Israel’s Julia Glushko was in action in the first round of the US Open Qualifying Tournament, having returned to New York after a year of numerous, unexpected health and medical issues. 

The 29-year-old Glushko, currently ranked No. 248, faced 19-year-old Ukrainian power hitter Katarina Zavatska (No. 127) in the mid-day heat in Flushing Meadows. Long rallies, careful shot selection, and very few double faults and unforced errors kept the 2-hour, 25-minute slugfest close for two sets. Glushko took the first set 7-5, but Zavatska fought back to close out the second set 6-3 as her set-point shot rolled off the top of the net, landing far out of Glushko’s reach.

Following a short break, Glushko took the first game of the decisive set before quickly falling behind 4-1. Glushko held serve at 4-2 and lost the next two games, double faulting to end the match in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 defeat. 

“It was a good match,” said Glushko’s coach Keren Shlomo. “Zavatska played really well. She doesn’t give you anything. You have to work for everything.” 

In a post-match interview, Glushko added, “I had so many heath issues, it was scary. I had just one thing after another!” 

Glushko’s rough year actually started in the first round of last year’s US Open, when she hurt her left knee and fell to the ground in severe pain during her match against Monica Niculescu. Her knee was taped and she made what appeared to be a semi-miraculous recovery. Glushko battled back to win the match before losing in the second round to the eventual tournament champion Naomi Osaka. 
When Glushko returned to Israel, she learned that she had a fracture in her left knee. Once the fracture healed, she had surgery to clean the meniscus. Following a nearly seven-month recovery and rehabilitation, Glushko entered the qualifying tournament at Indian Wells, California. She played several tournaments in China and in Europe before again being sidelined – this time with sinus inflammation.

Glushko then entered the French Open qualifying tournament, where she lost in the third round and suffered a shoulder injury. She played in the qualifying tournament of Wimbledon in July, despite lingering shoulder pain. She was then diagnosed with a blood infection, which caused her to miss most of this summer’s US tournaments. Just a week ago, Glushko developed a cough and was treated with antibiotics. 

“It has been very on and off this year,” said the Israeli. “I feel like half the tournaments I was either playing injured or sick.” 
She described missing one her favorite tournaments, the Australian Open, and she missed playing with her Israeli teammates to the Fed Cup. 

“I learned that I can’t control life. You always have some deadline to make, or a tournament or a ranking. I learned that life is just bigger than that. I tried to control life too much. It doesn’t work… I just try to be happy each day.” 

Meanwhile, Dudi Sela hoped his visit to New York would last at least a week or two. The 34-year-old Israeli, ranked No. 167 in the world and on his way back from injuries which kept him out of last year’s US Open, needed to win three matches in this week’s US Open Qualifying Tournament to secure one of 16 coveted spots in the men’s main draw.

 Instead, Sela was dismissed in just over two hours in the first round of the qualifying tournament by 27-year-old Canadian Steven Diez, ranked No. 175. Sela called for the trainer in the third set to treat his wrist, before falling 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Sela is no stranger to the US Open. Since 2003, he has been entertaining fans in Flushing Meadows, often in come-from-behind battles late in the night. He played the US Open qualifying tournaments in 2003, 2005 and 2006 without advancing to the main draw. 
From 2007-2011, and again from 2013-2017, Sela made it to the main singles draw, though never advancing past the second round. His career won/loss record at the US Open is 6-10.

Sela returned to this year’s US Open after skipping last year’s tournament due to a wrist injury. He has also dealt with back injuries in recent years. Sela mostly played Challenger tournaments in 2019; success in these lower level tournaments helped him acquire ranking points.

In June, Sela won the inaugural Little Rock Open, an ATP Challenger Tour, marking his 23rd career win and his first in two years. Sela has earned slightly under $47,000 in prize money this year, and just under $4 million in his career. In 2009, Sela reached a career high ranking of 29. First-round losers in this year’s US Open Qualifying Tournament earn $11,000.

On Tuesday, Sela generally dictated the pace early in the match and enjoyed support of vocal Israelis in the crowd, cruising to an easy 6-4 win.

Diez held serve in the first game of the second set before Sela went up 3-1, displayed masterful shot selection and placement, and he appeared on course to win close out the match. However, Diez hit a series of successful passing shots and held serve to take the second set 6-4.

Sela came out fighting in the third set, but Diez quickly took held control and broke Sela to go up 3-0. Sela appeared on course for a comeback when down 4-2, however following a series of balls hit long and wide, the Israeli appeared to lose his desire and Diez closed out the final set 6-2. 

Other Jewish players in action on Tuesday include Noah Rubin, the 23-year-old from Long Island, New York who was the Wimbledon boys’ title in 2014, and Jamie Loeb, 24, of Ossining, New York. Loeb was the 2015 NCAA champion at the University of North Carolina.

Currently ranked No. 195, Rubin notched a 6-2, 6-3 first-round victory over Gianluca Mager of Italy.
“The first win definitely helps moving forward,” said Rubin. “More than anything, I just want to have fun and enjoy myself, and that is why I am here.”

Loeb was ousted in her match by No. 29 Harriet Dart of England.

“It’s always great having a home crowd,” said Loeb following her 6-2, 7-6 loss to Dart on Tuesday. “I wish I could’ve pulled it out today, but it’s tough.”

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