Tennis / National Championship

What Prevented You From Becoming the New Shahar Peer? 'Money'

A year and a half after retiring from tennis, and without training consistently, Ofri Lankri reached the final of the Israeli Open on Friday and gave champion Julia Glushko a good fight for her money.

So, how was your week?

“Fun.”

How many matches did you play until you reached the final?

“I won seven matches, four in the qualification rounds and three in the tournament itself. On Sunday I also played with my club, Ramat Hasharon, so that’s one more.”

Quite a tight schedule.

“I never played so many matches, even when I was professional.”

Were you pleased with your match against Julia Glushko?

“Very pleased, I told my friends I couldn’t expect a better showing.”

You retired 18 months ago, why did you enter the tournament?

“I talked to my friends and they all told me ‘go and play for the fun of it, maybe you’ll earn some money. What have you got to lose?’ I was afraid of disappointing myself, that my old love would again receive a blow. When I was on court – and I love the Ramat Hasharon court – everything worked out for me.”

Does the fact that a non-active player reaches the final reflect on the low level of women’s tennis in Israel?

“Maybe. I thought about it even before reaching the quarter-finals. Many people encouraged me, but there was something about it that disappointed me. I hoped to see new talent − and I do know that I have something that some of the younger players lack, including experience − but I’m sure the new generation will come good, because there are many talented girls out there.”

Why did you retire in the first place?

“For purely financial reasons. Tennis was and will be my first love. After winning a tournament in Ra’anana I flew to Uzbekistan, returned to Israel, and then flew to Turkey, and then I reached the decision. There was no money in it, and I’m basically a calm person. I can’t really play when I’m bothered.”

Balancing income and expenses, what was the bottom line of an average month?

“A large overdraft in the bank. There are huge expenses: paying my personal coach, who was with me around the clock, a fitness coach for a daily session of 90 minutes, flights ... it never ends.”

Didn’t the Israel Tennis Association and the Israel Tennis Center support you?

“Not enough, I played for the center, not the association. They were great and supported me, but couldn’t do much. They really couldn’t support a single person that much.”

What prevented you from becoming the new Shahar Peer?

“Money.”

What was the largest prize you won?

“$1,600 in a tournament in Cuba.”

That’s it? That’s hardly enough to cover the flight.

“It was exactly enough to cover the flight.”

Who was your role model as a young player?

“I’m not sure. I believe my tennis was slightly different. Women’s tennis has become rather dull. I loved trying a variety of shots. If I tried to emulate someone, it was probably Roger Federer.”

If you would play him now in a five-set match, how many points would you take?

“Altogether? I don’t know, maybe 10 points.”

Assuming he doesn’t have any double faults.

“Oh, in that case, probably five points.”

Sharon Bokov