Lina Glushko balances Israel’s US Open hopes on her racket

Original article published in the Jerusalem Post

Lina, 22, now ranked No. 215 in the world, is about to become the only Israeli female at the US Open Tennis Championships, taking place in New York from August 29-September 11. 

The Williams family was blessed with two tennis-playing daughters – Venus and Serena. The Glushko family of Israel is similarly blessed with two tennis-playing daughters, Julia and Lina.

Like the Williams sisters, the Glushko sisters have teamed up from time to time to play doubles, including in 2015 for Israel’s nationals and in 2018 for the Fed Cup in Athens versus Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg and Denmark.

But that seems like ancient history for 22-year-old Lina Glushko. In 2018, when she played Fed Cup with her sister, Lina was a recent graduate of the Ironi Gimel high school in Modiin, she was serving in the IDF as a sports standout, and she was ranked No. 838 in the world.

In contrast, Julia was established in her professional tennis career, ranked No. 196 and playing in such Grand Slam tennis events as the US Open. Now, Julia is 3, retired from tennis and living and working in Tel Aviv. 

Lina, 22, now ranked No. 215 in the world, is about to become the only Israeli female at the US Open Tennis Championships, taking place in New York from August 29-September 11. 

Glushkos’ statements

“It is closure,” said Lina Glushko.  “Julia is finished with her tennis career and focusing on other stuff. I am at the beginning!” 

Glushko will see action Tuesday or Wednesday in the US Open Qualifying tournament. She will start with a match against 27-year-old German Tamara Korpatsch, who is ranked 139th. The 128 entrants will be battling for the remaining 16 spots in the main women’s draw of the US Open. 

Julia Glushko is happy for her sister. 

“I’m just so proud of her. To see her growing as a player and as a person is just so inspiring. She has a big game, huge serve and very good attitude and I really believe she can play at the top level.” 

Lina has had a busy, confidence-building summer.  She concedes that this came after a rough few months which started in January when she got “really sick” with COVID-19 and “had no time to practice.” 

Glushko spoke this week to The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview from her hotel in New York City as she prepared for the US Open.

Israel’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, Julia Glushko (credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)

“I’ve been through a lot.  But every time I was going through tough times, I kept believing and knew it would end.” 

Glushko admits that she essentially deviated from the game plan set out by her beloved coaches and managers, which deemphasized focusing on earning points to qualify for major tournaments. 

“I was playing 25s in Israel and was ranked No. 270 in May and June and was thinking, ‘I need to do more to get in [to the draw of such major tournaments as the US Open].  There was a lot of pressure.”

She noted that her team was saying “we don’t look at rankings and points.  Do your best and work really hard and results will come.” 

“I lost my way because I was thinking about points and the US Open – and started losing in tournaments in Israel in the first round!”

Glushko lost to Shavit Kimchi in the round-of-16 in a 25K tournament in Ra’anana in June, then lost the following week in another 25K tournament in Ra’anana – this time in the round-of-32 to Maria Timofeeva.

As the summer progressed, Glushko turned things around.

“I was ready to let it go and stopped thinking about the qualies or the US Open.” 

One week after her disappointing Israel tournaments, Glushko was in Palma del Rio, Spain, where she reached the semifinals.   She continued seeing results at tournaments in Europe, the US and Canada. 

Glushko lost in the finals in Corroios-Seixal, Portugal and reached the round-of-32 in mid-July at a tournament in Guimaraes, Portugal.  She lost in the second round of the qualifiers of the WTA International in Prague, Czech Republic.  She retired in the round-of-32 at a Challenger tournament in Lexington, KY (USA) and lost in the qualifiers of the WTA Premier 5 tournament in Toronto in early August. She lost 6-4, 6-2 to world No. 85, Donna Vekic of Croatia.  Throughout Glushko’s impressive summer, she earned important ranking points. 

“I went back to my way,” reported Glushko, pleased that she got back on track as the summer progressed.

Glushko is pleased with her performance and appreciative of her team.  The kind, soft-spoken Glushko praises her team, consisting of Ronen Morali, Ofer Fadida and Coach Maria João Koehler, for all of the financial and professional assistance they have offered and lined up.  Morali serves as head coach and is Head of ITEC (Israel Tennis and Education Centers) Tennis Lovers Programs and serves as Israel’s Federation Cup coach.  

Morali is excited about Glushko, her game and her overall attitude.

“She is very special – intelligent, talented and fun to be around!”

Fadida serves as a sponsor and member of Glushko’s management team.  Support from two Israel companies and from the Israel Tennis Association has helped with the high costs associated with professional tennis  

Now, Glushko is set to represent Israel at the US Open, though she noted proudly, “I have been representing Israel since I was 10!”  

Lina was the only of the three Glushko children to be born in Israel.  Her parents moved to Israel from Ukraine a year before she was born. 

“Playing tennis is in the family,” said Gluskho, noting that both her parents were tennis coaches.  “They put me on the tennis court at a very young age, like 3 or 4. Before that, I was on the court – picking up balls and just sitting on the court!”  

Glushko is proud of being Israeli and she regularly posts about Israel on social media and has conversations with players on the tour about Israel. 

“I love Israel and am proud to represent Israel. 99% of the time I feel support every time I post.” 

But she is not afraid to engage detractors in open conversation.  She recalls a time when she had an “intelligent conversation” with a man who asked about her thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and asked about “occupation and killing children.” 

For now, Glushko is just happy to be in New York, preparing for the US Open. As one of Israel’s only representatives in Flushing Meadows, she is likely to have the support of the many New York-area Israelis and Jews who are known for cheering on Israelis at the tournament.

“New York is my favorite city. It is really intense. I couldn’t live here but I just love it. It is a great atmosphere and has a vibe too.” 

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