Shahar Peer knocked off Great Britain's Johanna Konta, a player 37 places ahead of her in the world rankings, in straight sets Monday. But during post-match media session, Peer was not surprised to field a whopping total zero questions about her match or even tennis.
Instead it was politics as usual for the 27-year-old Israeli, who is ranked No. 155.
"I guess I'm kind of an ambassador for Israel for some things," Peer says after dispatching Konta 6-2, 6-3 in the opening round of the U.S. Open. "I'm proud of it. I'm very pro-Israel."
Asked at what point she realized that most of her media inquiries would be about politics, Peer says, "I don't know when. I've had a long career already."
Thousands of miles away from Flushing Meadows, Israelis and Palestinians continue a military conflict that has lasted more than a month, although political warfare has existed since Israel's inception in 1948. Military service is mandatory for Israeli citizens, and Peer served as a 19-year-old while doubling as a tennis player.
She reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals in 2007, including the U.S. Open, while still serving. She is arguably her nation's greatest female tennis player of all-time.
Peer's accomplishments make her a light in a time of darkness. Israelis, even in the northern city of Tel Aviv, previously a safe zone from southern attacks, live every day in fear of rockets from the terrorist organization Hamas.
Peer was at home in Israel when the conflict escalated in mid-July. She has since left, returned and left for the tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open. Her mother and sister remain in Tel Aviv. Her father recently made the trip to the United States for the U.S. Open and her brother, Shlomi, who did his mandatory service during a previous military conflict in Gaza, lives in New York.
Peer embraces the support of her Israeli fans.
"I think I always feel they're behind me, since the first day of my career," she says. "I think what is very strong in our nation of Israel is that when things are going bad, we all support each other."
Peer points to the generosity of northern Israelis offering shelter to southern citizens as an example of this connective spirit.
As for the conflict itself, Peer is a supporter of her homeland and believes her nation is victimized in the affair. She sticks to her pro-Israel perspective, within reason.
"The truth is that we defend ourselves," Peer says. "Whenever they shoot, we defend. We never go to be the first one. Nobody's talking about that they've been shooting rockets for the past year and we didn't do anything."
Although she did serve in the Israel Defense Forces, Peer has not lost a close friend or family member in the fighting.
"The truth is it doesn't matter" she says. "Everyone that died, the soldiers, the little kid that died 2-3 days ago, it's tough. We are very strong as a nation–that's what I feel–and we all support each other. Hopefully it's going to end soon."
On tour, Peer is not free from Israel-Palestine talk. Her fellow WTA players supported her when she was not allowed to compete in a February 2009 tournament in the United Arab Emirates. Players try to get some education, while expressing condolences, to Peer.
"Some people were asking me like who started and what is really going on and how is your family, so I do get some questions," she says.
In New York City, Peer finds herself at the center of one of the most outspoken Jewish communities in the world. When asked about the Jewish support in the Big Apple, Peer cracks a smile.
"I always get a lot of support and it's fun," she says. "I'm really happy to win today and maybe get more support in the next round. I love grand slams, but I think this one is my favorite."
At 27, Peer is way past the prime of her rather successful career (her highest ranking was No. 11 in January 2011). Peer had not made it out of the first round of the U.S. Open since 2011 and the first round of a grand slam since the 2013 Australian Open. Last year, she did not even get out of the qualifying stage in Flushing Meadows.
When Peer decides to retire, there's no question that she will settle in Israel.
"I don't see myself living anywhere else," she says.
But retirement is not imminent, and in the meantime, she is happy that the media are still interested in talking with her about Middle East.
"It's not a nice situation to anyone in Israel. We all want it stop. I hope they reach a ceasefire soon," she says.
On Wednesday, Peer continues her run at the U.S. Open with a second-round match against qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia. Lucic-Baroni, ranked No. 121, upset 25th-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain in the first round.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.