An Unlikely Courtside View of an Unlikely Qualifier

An Unlikely Courtside View of an Unlikely Qualifier

Much about this ride, actually, has been a departure from her past — and not merely because of the nosy scribe sitting beside Shlomo at her matches and joining them at every practice.

As much as any player in the event, Glushko took advantage of the new U.S.T.A. rule — introduced last year — permitting on-court coaching during qualifying play. Glushko routinely surrendered time allotted for rest in her courtside chair during changeovers to cross to the other side of the court and stand beside Shlomo for tactical and mental counsel — to let her longtime friend “calm me down.”

This option was particularly vital in Glushko’s first-round meeting with No. 227-ranked Renata Zarazúa. Despite my attempted pre-match pep talk about walking onto Court 9 feeling calm and confident, given her experience edge and the dominant record she amassed to get back to this stage, Glushko was so tight in the first set that she turned to Shlomo and me and mouthed, “I can’t breathe.

Zarazúa seized a 4-0 lead in minutes. To make matters worse, after steadying herself to win the next four games and seizing a love-40 lead on Zarazúa’s serve, Glushko squandered all three break points and dropped the opening set, 6-4.

My stint as Hadad’s stand-in looked like it was going to be a short one. The rally Glushko proceeded to unleash against Zarazúa took her record in three-set matches for the year to a remarkable 17-2, but I’m convinced she couldn’t have survived such a poor start without Shlomo’s constant encouragement in Hebrew.

“I think I couldn’t breathe because I just wanted it so badly,” Glushko said. “But Keren knows me so well. A lot of times a coach can say the right thing, but it’s not the right moment. Keren knows how to talk to me.”

After Glushko lost five of her first six matches in 2018, Shlomo began traveling with her full-time. In 56 matches since mid-March, mostly at the I.T.F. level, Glushko has posted a gaudy mark of 47-9, which includes tournament titles in Thailand and Singapore in June with total prize money of $25,000, and another title at the I.T.F. event in Granby, Canada, in July that had a total purse of $60,000.

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