|Gail Brodsky: Tennis Up-and-Comer|
|While most 17 year olds are
busy making spring plans for their prom, Gail Brodsky was pursuing a
spot in the upcoming French Open. By mutual agreement with the United
States Tennis Association and the U.S. Open, one wildcard spot for an
American player who otherwise does not qualify for the main men’s and
women’s draw was made available through a playoff, which was held at the
end of April in Boca Raton, Florida. Brodsky was one of 11 young women
seeking the wildcard spot.
Brodsky was born in the Ukraine, and moved to Brooklyn with her family when she was six. Soon afterwards, she saw her parents playing tennis and thought that would be fun for her as well. When she became serious about the game, she found a training opportunity at the Weil Tennis Academy in California, where she has spent a good part of the year for each of the past six seasons, while being home schooled to keep up with her education.
“That really helped, as I think it would be pretty difficult to play high level tennis in Brooklyn,” Brodsky said. “It’s cold in Brooklyn, and hard to find enough court time.” Brodsky has been on the tour for the past three years. “I turned pro, so I decided to skip college for a while.”
Up until recently, Brodsky, currently ranked no. 388 on the WTA tour, was coached by her father, Eduard, who was on a professional rowing team back in the Ukraine, while her mother was a gymnast. Currently she is coached by one-time ATP tour player Lenny Schloss.
Brodsky, seeded no. 3 among the 11 women, had a bye in first day play, and faced Sloane Stephens in second day action. Brodsky lost to the 16-year-old Stephens 3-6,6-3,4-6.
“I was pretty upset after my match today,” Brodsky told JewishSport.org, “so I called my coach. He was very understanding. He said to me, ‘You know, every tennis player goes through this, and everybody feels like they want to quit at some point. But the ones who keep at it and the ones who do work harder are the ones who end up winning.’ So that’s about it – you just have to stay with it even if it is hard much of the time.”
Brodsky added that it isn’t easy dealing with the demands of travel and life on the road, but acknowledges “It’s part of the lifestyle in professional tennis. You just take everything as it comes. I’ve had a pretty tough year this past year; I haven’t won too many matches and have been in a slump lately.”
In men’s play on a nearby court, Jesse Levine (ranked no. 130 on the men’s tour) lost in three sets to 6’9” John Isner. When told of this, Brodsky commented, “A tough day for the Jews.”
Speaking of her own Jewish identity, she noted, “My family is not really
religious – the only thing we pretty much celebrate is Hanukkah. But I’m
really proud of being Jewish and who I am. I’m really proud of our
background and our history. We’ve gone through so many tough things and
so many people have tried to wipe us out, yet here we are. In terms of
my own family, too, my father tells me how he faced many hardships being
Jewish in the Ukraine.
The Jewish players on the men’s tour know each other and are friendly with one another. Is that also true on the women’s tour? “The only other Jewish player that I know of is Madison Brengle. She’s ranked in the top 200. We’re pretty good friends; we played doubles in the last tournament we played in. I actually don’t know Jesse (Levine) too well. It’s just nice – we don’t have too many Jews in the sport – just a handful.”
Brodsky met Israel player Shahar Pe’er prior to the Miami-based Sony Ericsson tournament in 2008. “We talked – she was very nice. When I see her at tournaments now we say hello, though beyond that we’re not particularly close or anything.”
(In 2009 Sony Ericsson play, Pe’er went up against 15 year old Tamaryn Hendler of Belgium, and told reporters after the match that Hendler, too, is Jewish. Brodsky noted having crossed paths with Hendler on many occasions, particularly earlier on when Hendler trained at the renowned Bollettieri Tennis Academy.)
When play was competed in Boca Raton, Lauren Embree had won the coveted spot at Roland Garros. On the men’s side, no. 1 seed John Isner beat home-town favorite Jesse Levine (seeded no. 2) 7-6 (2), 6-4,6-4 to stake his claim to the men’s spot. (Levine should be likely to get a spot in qualifying play at the French Open, where he would have to make it past another three rounds to get into the main draw). As for Gail Brodsky, she was off to the next tournament, a small ($50,000 purse) event in central Florida the first week in May.
At just 17 (“I’m actually old in tennis terms,” she points out), look for Gail Brodsky to make a name for herself in professional tennis. And if she is anywhere near your town, make it a point to go out and cheer her on.