Julia Glushko plays a forehand in the women's singles first round match at the 2018 US Open. Julia Glushko plays a forehand in the women's singles first round match at the 2018 US Open. Julia Glushko plays a forehand in the women's singles first round match at the 2018 US Open. (Photo: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

U.S. Open performance helps Israel's top-ranked female tennis star's push for stardom

Once ranked 79th in the world, the 28-year-old Julia Glushko is staging a comeback.

If you've been reading the headlines out of the U.S. Open this week in New York, you may be distracted by the news of Serena Williams' bold outfit choices. (A catsuit? A tutu?) But we've been focusing on the play of another athlete: Julia Glushko, Israel's top-ranked female tennis star.

The 28-year-old almost didn't make it to the tournament at all. Athletes need to be ranked 225 or better to qualify for the U.S. Open. A year ago, she was 229 – respectable, but unable to qualify. She was actually considering quitting the sport. “It was the first time in my life that I didn’t want to play,” Glushko told the New York Times. “And I didn’t even miss it.”

Julia Glushko at the French Tennis Open third in 2014. Julia Glushko at the French Tennis Open third in 2014. (Photo: Dominique Faget / AFP/Getty Images)

But she didn't give up. Glushko picked up her racket, competed in smaller tournaments and worked her way up the rankings during the past 12 months. Since mid-March, her record has been 47-9. That winning streak continued last week when she swept Mexico’s Renata Zarazua, Sweden's Viktorija Golubic and Russia's Anastasia Potapova in the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Open. Going into the tournament, Glushko was ranked 162 in the world.

On Tuesday, in the first official round, she bested Monica Niculescu of Romania. “Oh, My God! I was so nervous in the beginning, I couldn’t breathe!" she exclaimed after the match. "I am so happy I got through." On Thursday, she fell to Naomi Osaka of Japan at the event at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Icing her knee, Julia Glushko receives treatment on the court during her women's singles first round match against Monica Niculescu of Romania. Icing her knee, Julia Glushko receives treatment on the court during her women's singles first round match against Monica Niculescu of Romania. (Photo: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

Born in the Ukraine in 1990, Glushko moved with her family to Israel in 1999. She took up playing tennis at a very early age, and made her professional debut in 2004 at a competition in Israel.

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While Israel is known as a basketball- and soccer-centric country, tennis has been gaining ground in recent years. Israel's Dudi Sela, who is not competing in this year's U.S. Open, ranked as high as 29th in the world during his career. What's more, Ben-Gurion University in southern Israel has been focusing some of its academic research into the science of tennis. Two recent studies they conducted include why male tennis players are more likely to choke under pressure than women, as well as coming up with new ways to make women's tennis a more competitive sport.

Glushko hopes to qualify for all four Grand Slams this year, a feat she hasn't reached since 2014, when she was ranked 79th in the world. After the U.S. Open, she plans on competing at tournaments in Louisville, Kentucky, and Vancouver, Canada. “I’m so happy right now both in my personal and professional life," she told the local Israeli press. "And I believe that when I’m happy it reflects as to how I’m playing tennis as well.”

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U.S. Open performance helps Israel's top-ranked female tennis star's push for stardom
Once ranked 79th in the world, the 28-year-old Julia Glushko is staging a comeback.