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Tenacity is a net plus for Cats’ top player

Senior Danielle Steinberg, 24, is the No. 1 singles player for the UA women's tennis team. Steinberg, from Tel Aviv, Israel, is 8-3 this season.

Senior Danielle Steinberg, 24, is the No. 1 singles player for the UA women's tennis team. Steinberg, from Tel Aviv, Israel, is 8-3 this season.

For senior Danielle Steinberg, getting to the University of Arizona was a miracle in itself.

Not only did she spend two years in the Israeli Army – service stints are mandatory for both men and women there – she had to endure funding issues and the rigors of traveling in the Middle East as a youth tennis player in Tel Aviv.

“I get a little agitated when people here talk about ‘the conflict’ (with Palestine), but I understand the curiosity,” she said. “We aren’t under constant attack, but there’s always a threat. . . I’ve heard bombs go off. Thank God, I’ve never known anybody killed or injured.”

Steinberg said, “It’s lonely and it’s hard. It’s almost impossible (to make it as a tennis player) unless you are a huge talent or if you have a lot of funds.

“But I wouldn’t give up.”

Steinberg, 24, in the midst of her fourth year at UA as the No. 1 singles player, was a little older and more mature than her classmates when UA women’s coach Vicky Maes recruited her – thanks to her military service.

Maes recruited Steinberg because of her never-give-up attitude, intrigued by the Israeli player’s feats from accounts on the Internet.

Steinberg unleashes a certain energy that makes a tennis court a very serious affair. She does it with intent, guile and a calm and infectious vocal power. She was made captain as soon as she arrived.

“She wasn’t real vocal then; she led mostly by example,” said Maes. “But in four years she has gained so much confidence. She loves the challenge.”

This season, Steinberg has an 8-3 singles record and has teamed with and mentored freshman Sue Landsman for a 10-2 doubles mark. In 2007, her sophomore year, Steinberg was No. 34 in the ITA collegiate rankings and made the Pac-10 All-Academic First Team with a 3.97 grade point average, but was hurt last year and did not play.

She has no secrets. It’s all in the spin and angles of things.

“I don’t have a power game and I can’t just wear somebody down,” Steinberg said. “I just want to play hard and be where I’m supposed to be.”

After her stint in the Israeli Army, she knew to continue in tennis she would have to have a U.S. college background on her résumé. She went on the Internet and contacted the 25 best programs. She insists she “got lucky” with UA, which has a strong Jewish community.

“To understand Israel you have to go there, do research,” Steinberg, who was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Tel Aviv, said. “I’ve talked to those who say they would be afraid to go. But go, and you will fall in love with it.”

Steinberg is grateful to be part of a team atmosphere at UA.

“We feed off each other,” Steinberg says. “It’s where we get the energy to go on.”

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