Tzipi Obziler has earned the chance to continue her reign as Israel's female tennis champion, but her opponent in Friday's final is a familiar and dangerous one.
Shahar Pe'er and Obziler, No. 1 and No. 2 at this week's national tennis championships, made light of their work in getting to the ladies' singles final, where the two will meet for the third straight year.
Last year, Obziler defeated Pe'er in straight sets, but Pe'er won the 2003 final when she was just 16 years old.
Pe'er is one of the world's fastest-rising tennis stars, as the Maccabim resident began 2005 ranked 184 by the WTA, but has raced into the top 50.
In the men's event, No. 1 seed Dudi Sela had to forfeit due to a hand injury that gave Amir Weintraub free passage into the final. The No. 4 seed will meet Dekel Valtzer, the No. 3 seed who had a straight-set victory over Ishay Hadash in their semifinal, 6-2, 6-1.
In the ladies' semifinals, Pe'er defeated Elana Agranovich 6-0, 6-4, while Obziler had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Keren Shlomo.
All four semifinalists won their quarterfinals in straight sets. Pe'er defeated Nadine Fahoum 6-2, 6-3; Agranovich was too good for Efrat Zlotikamin 6-3, 7-6(3); Shlomo outclassed Alexandra Kichoutkin 6-2, 6-2; and Obziler had a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 win over Julia Glushko.
The men's quarterfinals were almost as one-sided. Sela defeated Iden Mark 6-1, 6-4. Amir Weintraub was the only one to drop a set, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 against Amit Inbar, while Valtzer outgunned Ravid Hezi 6-1, 6-3 and Hadash steamrolled Yoav Schab 6-0, 6-2.
Both Pe'er and Obziler will be looking for their third national title in the final on Friday. Obziler defeated Pe'er in last year's championship, which will give the match some extra spice.
The ladies final takes place after the men's final, which will begin at 10 a.m. at Lev HaPark in Ra'anana.
Admission is free and the matches will also be broadcast live on Sport5.
In the men's doubles, Valtzer and Inbar teamed up to defeat Hadash and Weintraub 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 for the title.
In the ladies' doubles, Glushko and Fahoum upset Agranovich and Shlomo winning 2-6, 6-0, 6-3.
Petah Tikva coach Nir Levin might start veteran Motti Kakoon in attack, with youngsters Toto Tamuz and Elnatan Salami failing to impress lately.
The last game of Matchday 14 is Monday evening when Bnei Sakhnin hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva, which played its last UEFA Cup match of the season Thursday evening.
Sakhnin is currently negotiating a contract extension with Brazilian striker Gabriel Lima, who has impressed coach Lufa Kadosh in his new spell in the club. Lima's current trial contract expires in January 2006.
Jeremy Last contributed to this report.
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