We got together with Israel's No. 2 racquet (ranked No. 159), Julia Glushko, to sum up her 2012 season so far. We've talked about her run through the US Open series, personal life, financial state, practice methods, coaching staff, Fed cup, aspirations and much more.
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Let’s start with North America. For most of the 2012 season you didn’t have any special successful results, and then suddenly you swept up the tour – semifinals, finals, you won a $50,000 tournament – what led to this success? [Glushko made the finals in Waterloo $50K, the semis of Granby $25K and of Vancouver $100K and won Lexington $50K]
The first half of the year wasn’t that good for me, I didn’t win too many matches and my ranking went down. But despite that, I did work very hard on my tennis, also between the tournaments, I did my best – and I think it all came together for me in the US tournaments. Along with the victories came the confidence, more and more in every tournament. At first it was just a confidence taken from one match into the next one, and I built on it with each successive tournament. Altogether, I’m very pleased with the summer that I’ve had, it could be a bit better, but still – it was a very good period.
From there, you continued to the US Open. Can you tell us about the differences between the US Open and other tournaments you play? What’s the daily routine in such a big tournament?
The daily routine is more or less the same – you still dothe same things before the matches and between practices, but obviously – the players are treated differently, it’s a huge event, it’s a big happening in New York. It’s also a lot of players, not like the smaller tournaments where you’re generally only with the girls, not a lot of them are joint events. So – many players, many people who work in the organization of the event, it’s a huge place and just an incredible experience.
You reached the 3rd and final qualifying round, you have a match point – what goes through your head?
I was nervous, of course, I won’t tell you that I wasn’t. It’s funny, because I had a “net” in my last point. You know, it’s so exciting, but I felt much more prepared this time [Glushko reached the USO final qualifying round in 2011, too] – both mentally and with my tennis. I was prepared to play the main draw, I knew that I belonged there and that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be there. I was nervous, but I think I handled it well.
You won the match.
And next, you’re in the main draw and you know you’re going to play against Yanina Wickmayer, ranked 25 in the tournament, who reached the semifinals of the 2009 US Open. What goes through your mind then?
Nothing special, you know – it’s a tough draw, but I didn’t come to the match with a negative mindset, on the contrary – how fun, it’s a main draw match against a good opponent and I felt in good shape. I actually felt that I could win; I didn’t leave the match feeling “OK, I did what I could”, but rather disappointed because I maybe could have won, I did feel that I had opportunities during the match. You learn from it, just like any other loss. The most important thing is that I did feel that I belonged there and that I can play at this level.
We saw that during the championships you had a strapping on your leg?
Yeah, actually I had it almost the whole summer. I had an injury in my knee since the third week, both because of the load and playing lots of matches. I had just four days off, and they were in one stretch, two weeks before the US Open. I barely had a break between tournaments, because I reached the later stages, which is good, but not so good for my body. I also took pills, but I only started this when I really couldn’t move anymore. But that’s tennis, there’s nothing you can do about it, it happens. You play so much, and there’s pressure, it’s all a part of it.
Which conclusions did you draw from the US Open?
The most important for me – is knowing that I belong there, that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be in the top 100 or in the main draw of any Grand Slam. Even though she’s the 28th in the world, which is impressive, I still felt like I had opportunities in the match. That’s the most important thing, of course my tennis got better, but this feeling of belonging – to the top 100, to the biggest tournaments - is the main thing which I need to take with me.
You’ve talked before about having financial struggles, please tell us – how do you get by as a legitimate top 200 player with no ongoing financial backing, are there other ways in which you earn money? For example, we know that Amir Weintraub went to compete in a league in the United States [World Team Tennis], and he said this is a good income source for players that don’t play the big tournaments regularly.
Yes, it’s tough. On one hand, being in the top 200 isn’t bad, but on the other hand – the money isn’t “Wow”. Players in the top 100 have the regular tournaments – even losing in the first round of all Grand Slams gives you a minimum of about $80,000 a year. It’s difficult, the Israeli Tennis Association help me a lot, as much as they can, and I thank them for that, but they’re not a rich federation. They’re not like the French or the Americans, who have everything they want. It’s mainly my own prize money, and we do try to look for sponsors and support, but it’s not easy at all. I was alone a lot this year, mainly in the first half of the season. In the summer Liran did accompany me to the US and Canada, and I think it really makes a difference – someone’s watching your match, and you have someone to look at. Obviously he went to watch my opponents before I played them, it gives you calmness and time to concentrate on your tennis.
So mostly when you’re abroad, you’re alone, there’s no-one who travels with you regularly?
No. In the first half of the year I was all by myself.
And in the USA, who joined you?
My coach now, together with Asaf Ingber. He was with me for those 2 months in North America.
Do you see yourself, if you continue to struggle financially, deciding “That’s it, I’m not doing this anymore”?
I don’t want to think about it, obviously, but it already happened before, not so long ago. I just want to think forward, and of course, if I succeed more, I’ll have more money. But yes, if in 3 years I’m still ranked 150, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to continue.
You’ve said in a previous interview that you’re working on the mental part of your game. How do you do it, and do you see the results?
It’s mainly intended to give me the calmness to play, without thinking about other things too much. I think I had the results of this summer… It’s not like I do any special exercise, it’s really just to keep me calm, which is the most important thing, without too many thoughts – just play my tennis.
It’s said that the most important thing for a tennis player is consistency, which comes on three levels – playing at a high level throughout a single match, throughout a tournament, and throughout a series of tournaments. Where do you think you are, in terms of this consistency?
I think you can’t play your best tennis all the time. You just can’t, that’s how it is. I also think it’s important to know how to win when you’re not playing well, I think it’s even more important than when you do play well. When you play well, everything’s good, so it’s important to get out of the matches where you’re not at your best. I think it’s more mental, and less tennis-wise. When you have the confidence, then you don’t get tight even when you’re break point down and it’s the second serve.
Which is a situation that…
Which happened to me, yeah, I was 1-3 down in the third set of my first qualifying match in the US Open, and it didn’t look good. The second set looked bad, I lost many straight games.
What did you tell yourself?
It’s just the confidence, really. In later matches, too, I was down a break point, and I hit a good first serve and got back. So yes, consistency is important of course, but there’s nothing you can do – you’ll have ups and downs. If you don’t have them, then you’re Djokovic (laughter).
Let’s say you just lost a match. What do you do, do you sit down and try to draw conclusions?
Yes, of course, after every match… It depends on the timing, on what happened in the match itself. But it happens every time, for matches I won, too. It’s not always straight after the match, that depends on the match. If it was the final in the 1st week, then we discussed it almost immediately, because in two days you have another tournament, you don’t have time to wait for a few days. But usually I react OK to losses; I don’t become depressed, I don’t close myself in my room. It’s all a part of it, almost every week you lose – there’s only one winner every week, there’s nothing you can do.
The question is – do you sit after the match and say: “I did A but what I had to do was B”?
Yes, yes, just like that – “I didn’t do this, I should have done that”. In the match against Wickmayer, for instance, I didn’t serve well, my serve broke down. I was a bit nervous, and that’s the first thing that went wrong. It didn’t break down completely, but it wasn’t good. So I can say “My serve wasn’t good [in that match]”, but it’s not like my serve is bad. I have a good serve generally, but there’s nothing I can do about that. If I’ll go and hit serves for two hours now, it won’t make it any better. But yes, it’s like that – Liran tells me the most of it – of course I say what I think myself, but Liran or Asaf usually tell me “You had to do A,B,C”.
What do you think is the weakest part of your game, what would you like to improve?
I think I should improve my return of serve, I think that’s the main thing that… I give too many free points when returning. You can always improve things, I’m not Federer or Serena Williams, so I have plenty of things to work on. Also fitness, I’m in good shape and I’m moving well, but you can always grow stronger. I think overall I can work on many things, and I like practicing.
So you can still improve as a player…
Yes, it’s good.
You practiced for a while in a French academy [Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy], under the supervision of Martina Hingis – what did it give you and do you plan on returning there?
Yes, I intend to go back there. [Hingis] is amazing, she gives me so much motivation, she’s done so much in her career and still, when she’s playing… First of all, she wants to play all the time, it’s amazing to me, I don’t know if many sportsmen are like that. I’ve never met a sportsperson of that level personally, so the fact that she still wants to play motivates me a lot, and the way she speaks to us on eye-level… She knows exactly what we feel, because she’s been there, she played. I really like her, we keep in touch even when I’m not there, and I thought she’d come to the US Open. She was supposed to come, but in the end she didn’t.
Did you have the chance to play a practice match against her?
Yes, and I won a set 6-4 (excited laughter).
It was one set?
Yes, we played one set, I lost it 6-4 the first time we played, and after a couple of weeks I won 6-4. When I play against her, I play unbelievably well, she even told me – “Every time we play points you’re playing really well!” So maybe I should put a mask with her face on the girls I’m playing against (laughter).
We saw this year that you can win the medium-level tournaments, $50,000 and such. Do you think that you can go one step forward and compete regularly on the WTA tour?
Yes, I think I can. Like I said, I felt like I belonged there, in the big tournaments, it’s really important and I’m also planning on playing bigger tournaments next year. It’s a bit different, every match is difficult, but I’m ready for it and that’s what I’m living, practicing and working so hard for. It excites me!
What are your next tournaments?
I’m flying to the far east [Asian swing]. Some bigger tournaments, some smaller - two tournaments of $125K and two $25K which I still don’t know if I’ll play.
That depends on the results after the bigger tournaments?
Yes, depends on what’ll happen.
How do you pick your tournaments? Does someone advise you, do you decide on your own? What are the considerations?
Yes, of course, Asaf and I decide. It depends on the period – which surface, how I feel, whether I need points, if I’m not in the best shape then smaller tournaments, now I’m feeling good, so bigger ones.
So now you’re feeling well, since you’re going to the bigger tournaments?
Yes, now I’m feeling great (smile).
There are players who make a switch to represent another country when they’re offered better conditions. We see it both on the men’s and women’s tours. Did you ever receive such offers?
No, and even if I’ll get one, I don’t think I’ll do it. I’m very proud to be representing Israel, it’s something really special, there’s only one other player on tour from here, and I think it’s amazing. I’m really enjoying it, people always ask: “Where are you from?” “From Israel” “Really? Wow!” etc. I really like that, and I really love the country, especially during Fed Cup. I don’t think I could’ve played for another country.
Do you get reactions on tour when people hear that you were a soldier?
Yes, people find it really weird, because… is Israel the only country where girls have obligatory service?
No, but there aren't many.
Yes, it’s really weird for them, because I’m a tennis player, and… it’s not like I was a combatant, but it’s still very weird for them. I did go through basic training, so… yes, always, a lot of people ask about it. I don’t think there’s anyone else on tour who served in the army, except for Shahar [Peer] and me.
We hear a lot during Shahar’s matches that commentators talk about her fighting spirit as something that was built by her army service.
I doubt it (laughter).
Do you think that your army service contributed somehow to your tennis?
It’s… something special. I don’t know if it contributed or not to the tennis, but it’s something different, that I haven’t done before and won’t do in the future. It was an amazing experience; it maybe gave me some proportions, if I weren’t a sportswoman, that’s what I would’ve done.
It matures you.
It does, I don’t know if it matured me, personally, becauseI didn’t really experience it for two years, like people usually do. My brother’s in the combat forces now, and I already see the changes in him, even though he’s only there for a few months. But… it really was an amazing experience, and more than that – I really don’t understand people who try to get out of the service. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for anyone who lives in this country.
Now I want to talk about a serious subject – the story of Deniz Khazaniuk [A young player who complained about the behavior and treatment she got from Peer and Glushko during Fed Cup]. What’s your point of view on everything that’s happened, do you think that she was treated well, or maybe in retrospect things should’ve been done differently?
I’ve never talked about this, I don’t know if you know. Every year there are youngsters on the team, last year we had three. Not only have there never been complaints outwards, there have never been inside complaints – not one to the other, not to the coaches, not to the captain. Among ourselves, Shahar, Keren [Shlomo] and I are good friends, both in Fed Cup and outside of it. Every girl who comes into the team - we have a talk with her. I was really scared when I joined the team – I’m very friendly and I talk a lot, but on my first day I didn't talk at all, it’s a lot of pressure joining girls who are already together and know each other. We told her – we’re really open with each other, come, talk, open up, if you have questions, anything, so you won’t have any outside embarrassments, what to wear, what to say. Come to me, to Shahar, to anyone you want. Shahar’s also amazing about it, when I joined the team it was Shahar, Tzipi [Obziler] and Anna [Smashnova], and Shahar was closest to me in age.
Of course those things [Khazaniuk] said aren’t true. I’m not even talking about myself, but about Shahar, whose career is built on the seriousness and the focus and the fight, she’s the most serious person on tour.
Of course it isn’t true. We went out after the tie, yes, when we didn’t have matches, but we didn’t hide it. We went to a party of Channel 5 [Israel’s sports channel], I mean… we won’t hide it, we’re after the competition, and of course we’ll go out and do what we want.
I don’t know where that came from, and I wish her all the best, good luck…
Did you have a chance to talk afterwards?
I haven’t seen her ever since, but I don’t have anything to tell her. If you have any problem, go to the federation, tell the captain, but…I don’t know, frankly, I don’t care too much what she has to say. OK, you’ve said those things, I think she said I’m disgusting? I don’t even know what that means. Someone thinks certain things are disgusting, someone else doesn’t.
But there wasn’t any argument, any fight?
A sharp turn to a different subject. There are lots of players who exhibit superstitions, both on court and off it – bottles, talismans… what about you?
I won’t tell [laughter].
But you have some.
I have. Liran, my coach, has more. He kills me with it – he’ll sit in the same pose during the match if I’ve won a point, and so on. I have a few.
Name just one?
No [laughter]. But it’s not like Nadal who has to put the bottles in the exact same position. I’m trying to get rid of it, because there are things you can’t control.
But it calms you down?
A bit, but what if you… I don’t know, there are things that are out of your control, like sitting in the same chair. Someone took your chair, so now what? You’ll think about it the whole match? I used to have more superstitions, when I was a kid I had so many. I’d do all sorts of things before the match, and if I’d get something wrong – that’s it, I’m going to lose, and I’d think that was the reason I lost, there’s no chance I lost for a different reason. I’m trying to get rid of those things, it isn’t good.
We talked a lot about tennis, now let’s put the tennis aside. You played, practiced, what do you do to clear your head and forget about tennis?
When I’m in Israel, I try to see my friends… and there aren’t many [laughter]. I have three friends.
Because of the tennis?
Yeah, because of the tennis, I don’t know… I don’t think you can have ten good friends. I have three good friends. So here I’m trying to be with friends, but if it’s after long days of practice, I’m usually at home, in my room, computer…
And if it’s during tournaments?
During the tournaments, if I have a day off, I do try to explore the city I’m in and do stuff, but usually I’m tired, so it’s just the computer. Days off often mean long rides – flights, trains, going from one tournament to the next. Now I had three days in New York after the US Open, so I walked around, and did shopping, and… I did lots of walking, of course.
Apart from Shahar, do you have good friends on tour, someone you can talk to, share experiences?
I talk to lots of people, of course, but…
After the matches?
No, after matches of course not.
After matches you don’t want to talk to anyone.
Well… I won’t discuss how I felt. There are girls I keep in touch with, girls from the academy in France, too, but not real friendships.
Because it’s such a competitive environment? People don’t want to divulge too much?
Not really that, no, because everything’s exposed, you know things about people. We’re together all the time, all day, it’s the same people in all the tournaments. But… it’s very competitive. I don’t treat it that way, actually, I’m less annoyed than others when other people succeed. But since this is an individual sport, everybody is more… I forgot the word, not selfish, but… egoistic, everybody thinks about what’s good for them. I do have friends, I go out to dinners with other girls, but I don’t know if we’ll keep in touch if one of us retires from tennis.
Who’s your role model in tennis?
I have specific things, like… Serena’s fighting spirit, or girls whose level I’d like to achieve, but I don’t have one model or anything.
Anyone that you say “I want to be like her”?
No, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know how… it’s different when you’re a beginning player, 1000 in the world, then it makes sense to have a model. But I don’t know how #150 or #200 in the world can have one, because you might play that player any moment, so… I could play against Serena or Sharapova, so I don’t know how players can be that way.
Are there any players that you like, that you follow their results, watch their matches?
People I know – Dudi, Shahar, Amir, people I care about. Today in the middle of my practice I kept glancing at Amir’s [Davis Cup] match, but that’s because I know them personally and I like them, of course I want them to succeed.
But you won’t wake up in the middle of the night to watch a Djokovic or a Federer match?
No, but I actually did watch the [US Open] final this time, and I stayed until 2am, but that’s because it was very thrilling. But no, I won’t wake up at 2am to watch a match.
If I asked you now to close your eyes and imagine Julia Glushko at the end of 2013, what do you see? Where do you want to be?
I don’t to talk about numbers and ranks, I don’t like it, It doesn’t do me any good. Of course you have to give yourself targets, and I want to finish this year around 120-130, so I can get easier access into the qualifying rounds of the big tournaments next year – even Miami and Indian Wells.
No, I’ll get into Australia anyway, because the cutoff is around 210, but for the other big tournaments – Miami, Indian Wells,Cincinnati, which is actually just before the US Open – you have to be around 120.
Are you thinking about getting a high enough ranking that will get you straight into the main draw of Australia?
Of course, yes, but I have to be reasonable. Of course I want it, and if I’m 120 in the middle of my journey, I won’t stop there and say “let’s go home now”. But I don’t want to think about rankings too much, I want to do my job calmly and continue what I did in the summer. Mainly I want to be calm financially, so I won’t have to depend on anybody else, so that any outside help will be a bonus and not something that I really must have to continue playing. I wish myself mainly health, so that I can do what I love and what I’m good at, and that’s it.
So we’ll wish you fulfillment of all those things, and a happy new year!
Thanks, you too!