Shahar Peer 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Pe’er claimed her first WTA Tour title in almost four years on Saturday, defeating Zheng Saisai of China, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the final of the Suzhou tournament in China.
The 26-year-old Israeli hadn’t won a final since lifting the trophy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in September 2009, but continued to gather momentum on Saturday after also reaching the final in her previous event in Baku, Azerbaijan two weeks ago.
Pe’er is set to climb around 25 places from her current ranking at No. 113 in the world thanks to her triumph in China after plummeting as low as No. 179 in June.
“It was extremely hot out there and so tough to play today, so I’m really happy I found the energy to win in the end,” said Pe’er after claiming three straight games to close out the match, which lasted two hours and 31 minutes.
“She was playing really well, and with the conditions, after the fourth game of the first set I was dead already. I’m sure in different conditions it would be a different game, but we both fought until the end and gave all our heart out there and I’m so happy to have won.”
Pe’er will return to Israel for a fourday break before leaving for the US to prepare for the US Open qualifiers.
She failed to receive direct entry to the main draw in New York as she was not ranked high enough at the cut off date last month.
After splitting with coach Pablo Giacopelli several weeks ago, Pe’er chose to focus on amassing muchneeded ranking points and confidence in smaller events in Asia, a decision which has clearly paid off and ensured she will be entering the qualifiers of the year’s final Grand Slam event in an upbeat mood.
Meanwhile in Montreal, Novak Djokovic laid down an early marker ahead of the US Open when he produced what he described “as close to perfection” as he could be in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup on Friday.
The world No. 1 was imperious in a 6-1, 6-2 thumping of Frenchman Richard Gasquet as he blasted winners from all over the court in an eye-catching performance that should serve as a reminder to his rivals for the Flushing Meadows title.
“In every part of my game I was at my best,” Djokovic said after taking just 52 minutes to humble the world No. 9. “From the start of the match I tried to dictate the play on the court and be in control of the rallies. I did it really well. As close to perfection as you can be really.”
Djokovic faced his long time rival Rafa Nadal in the semifinals late Saturday night after the Spaniard was equally as emphatic on the scoreboard and not far off in performance in a convincing straight sets win over Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic.
Nadal beat Djokovic 9-7 in the fifth set of an epic French Open semifinal two months ago but in this type of mood, even he may find the Serbian difficult to contain.
“Hard court is my most preferred surface. I feel that that’s maybe the place where I have more chances against him [Nadal] than on clay definitely,” Djokovic said.
“Of course it’s going to be a huge challenge for both of us, but I’ll be ready for it.”
A Nadal-Djokovic match is a worthy final on any surface and the pair have plenty of history when it comes to battling for silverware.
Nadal led their head-to-head 20-15 and before this year’s French Open, their previous last 11 meetings had been in finals, four of which had been on hard courts all won by Djokovic.
“The conditions here are probably more favorable for him,” Nadal acknowledged after his quarterfinal.
“Yes, we are playing on hard, but especially the conditions here. It’s one of the fastest courts of the hardcourt tournaments outdoors.
“Maybe that makes him a little bit more the favorite.”
Local favorite Milos Raonic held his nerve to beat Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in a thrilling quarterfinal to book a meeting with fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the other semifinal.
Reuters contributed to this report.