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(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe'er advanced to the third round of the US Open on Thursday evening after defeating Martina Muller of Germany 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.
The 19-year-old Israeli, who is ranked 21 in the world, has already equaled last years' achievement in reaching the third round and will next play Francesca Schiavone (15) of Italy for a place in the last 32.
Pe'er's good performance in the last grand slam of the year is a direct continuation of her excellent 2006 season which has already seen her win three WTA titles, reach the fourth round of a grand slam tournament for the first time and achieve a career best world ranking of 21.
Pe'er was superb at the start of the match and wrapped up the first set in a mere 25 minutes. The Israeli broke her opponents serve three times in the first set and despite getting broken herself once, won the set 6-1.
Muller (49) regained her composure at the start of the second set and took an early 3-0 lead. Pe'er fought her way back to 5-5, but the German broke the Israelis serve in the 12th game and completed a 7-5 win. Pe'er paid the price in the second set for squandering three of her five break points while Muller won every single one of her three break points.
After a tight start to the third and decisive set, the Israeli teenager was the first to break serve to take a 2-1 lead. The 23-year-old German had three break points in the following game but squandered them all gifting Pe'er a crucial game. With the momentum now on the Israelis side, Pe'er raced forward taking a 5-1 lead and eventually closed out the match with a 6-2 third set win.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich were also in action late on Thursday playing Americans Jesse Levine and Sam Querrey in the first round of the doubles tournament.
Ram was also due to play another match on Thursday night, combining with partner Vera Zvonareva of Russia to play Anabel Medina Garriques of Spain and Sebastian Prieto of Argentina in the first round of the mixed doubles.
The Israeli/Russian duo will have some high expectations to fulfill after winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles title just a couple months ago. Pe'er isn't the only successful Israeli in Flushing Meadows with Noam Okun having one of the best weeks of his tennis career after reaching the second round of the US Open late on Wednesday.
Okun (255) equaled his career best in grand slam tournaments after defeating Potito Starace (100) of Italy 6-2, 6-0, 4-6, 6-2.
The Israeli reached the second round of the US Open in 2002 however has since not passed a first round in any grand slam tournament. Okun will have a superb chance to advance even further after getting a relatively comfortable second round draw.
The Israeli will face Lukasz Kubot (138) after the Pole surprised the 32nd seed Kristof Vliegen of Belgium 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the first round.
The win was the Israelis fourth straight at Flushing Meadows after coming through three qualifying rounds last week. After trailing early on in the first set 2-1, Okun reeled off 11 straight games and seized full control of the match winning the first two sets. The Italian fought back and won the third set 6-4, but that was as close as he got to the Israeli. With the fourth set tied at 2-2 Okun got a crucial break of serve in the fifth game of the set and went on to win the next three games to complete a four set win.