Pe'er continues stunning form in Dubai

"I’m very pleased with my level of tennis and I hope to continue playing well in the rest of the tournament.”

February 18, 2010 14:02
3 minute read.
Pe’er returns shot in Dubai.

Pe’er Dubai 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

After making history by simply taking part in the Dubai Tennis Championships, Shahar Pe’er made international headlines for her play on court on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Israeli snapped her 10-match losing streak against top 10 players with a 6-2, 7-5 upset victory against world number 3 and top seed Caroline Wozniacki, reaching the quarterfinals of the lucrative $2 million event a year after she was denied a visa to play in the tournament.

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“I played really well,” Pe’er said. “I was aggressive throughout the match and dominated the points. I didn’t serve very well, but I returned the ball excellently. I’m very pleased with my level of tennis and I hope to continue playing well in the rest of the tournament.”

Pe’er, who hadn’t beaten a top 10 player since June 2008, will face another of the very best on Thursday. The Israeli plays world No. 10 and eighth seed Li Na, who overcame Marion Bartoli 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 on Wednesday.

Pe’er had never previously even taken a set off Wozniacki in three matches and won just four games in a third round loss at the Australian Open last month.

However, the Israeli reached at least one break opportunity on each of the 2009 US Open finalist’s 10 service games on Wednesday and broke the Dane eight times during the match.

“When I played her in Australia, I played well in the first set, and I had my chances but I didn’t take them,” Pe’er said. “So I knew the next time I have to play her, I really need to take my chances because she never gives up. She’s always there. I’m really happy I could manage it.”

The 22nd-ranked Pe’er closed it out on her fifth match point in a second set that contained seven breaks. The third-ranked Wozniacki held serve only twice in the match.

“She played really well,” Wozniacki said. “She kept changing the rhythm all the time. I had a few unforced errors early in the match and never managed to put her under pressure.”

Last year, organizers were fined $300,000 by the WTA for not allowing Pe’er to play in the event. She was denied a visa by the United Arab Emirates government, citing security reasons.

Wednesday’s match was moved from Center Court to Court No. 1 at the Aviation Club because it is the most secure, a decision Wozniacki agreed to even though she said the court speed was different.

“If there is a threat to her, there is a threat to me as well. So I completely agree with the fact that the match was scheduled on Court No. 1. I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Wozniacki said.

“The change of court did create a bit of a problem, since it was a little faster than the Center Court. But the conditions were the same for both of us and I really can’t complain.”

Thursday’s quarterfinal will also be played on Court No. 1 for safety reasons.

“I am pretty good at blocking it all out,” said Pe’er, who has been restricted to the tennis courts and her hotel by the organizers, and is being escorted onto court by 16 body guards.

“I try to take energy from what’s going on, and I really think I am playing better and better.

“I never cried like this when I won before. I’ve cried before when I lost matches, but this is the first time I cried when I won.”

Also Wednesday, defending champion Venus Williams advanced with a 7-5, 6-0 win over Olga Govortsova.

Second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova was upset by qualifier Regina Kulikova 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4.

The other matches went as seeded: Fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 and seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska dispatched Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-0.

AP contributed to this report.

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