(photo credit: Nousha Salimi/AP)
DUBAI – Despite increased security and playing in a country which only two years ago closed its borders to her, Shahar Pe’er looked as confident and aggressive as ever on Wednesday.
The 11th-ranked and ninth-seeded Israeli didn’t face anything resembling animosity from the crowd of about 50 people during Court One’s earliest match – and was even buoyed by cheers from some ballgirls who joined midway through.
She did face a healthy amount of adversity from her second-round opponent, Alexandra Dulgheru, however.
Up 5-4 in the first set, Pe’er made an error to fall behind 30-40, giving the Romanian a golden opportunity to pull back – even after trailing 5-2.
But the 23-year-old whirled to face the stands, and closed her eyes for a good three seconds, as a sense of calm seemed to come over her.
The next three points swiftly went her way as she took the first set en route to a 6-4, 6-2 win.
“I know what I’m doing out there,” Pe’er said after the match, of her
mini respite. “It doesn’t just come from nowhere. It’s trying to relax
and focus as much as I can for the next point. Just trying to take
But for every moment of tranquility, there were twice as many outbursts –
usually alternating between “Come on!” and “Kadima!” Only once did she
smile in the face of frustration, explaining to her father, Dov, late in
the second set, “She’s giving it to me and I’m not taking it.”
Meanwhile, Dov was flanked in the stands for the entire match by at least one plainclothes police escort.
Pe’er went on to explain her winning mind/body connection.
“Sometimes you just need to say things, just to get it out of your body
and out of your mind,” she said. “That’s what I do sometimes. Nobody
ever understands what I’m saying, so it’s fine.”
Pe’er never really felt threatened by Dulgheru.
“I played her two weeks ago in Israel in the Fed Cup and I think I
played much better,” Pe’er said. “I think that if I would have taken my
chances I could have won 6-2, 6-1, because I had so many chances in the
first set at 5-2 and 5-3.
And then I had my game points and break points.”
Pe’er will face Yanina Wickmayer (25) in the third round on Thursday
after the Belgian saved four match points in the second set tiebreak
before claiming a 6-7 (6), 7-6 (6) 6-2 victory over Australian Open
finalist Na Li (7).
“I started very well today and then went down from there,” Pe’er said.
“In the first round I started very badly and was much [more free] in the
second set. So overall I was much better in the second round, but I’m
still not where I want to be.”