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(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe'er advanced to the last 16 of the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, for a second straight year, defeating Lucie Safarova 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in the third round on Sunday.
The Israeli, who is ranked No. 16 in the world and seeded 11th at the huge $2.1 million tournament, will play world No. 11 and eighth seed Anna Chakvetadze of Russia in the fourth round. Pe'er will be looking for her first career win over the 20-year-old, after losing to the Russian last year in Miami 6-1, 6-2, and in Montreal 7-6(3), 7-5.
Pe'er, who had lost her only previous meeting against Safarova (26) in a qualifier in Bastad, Sweden, in 2004, broke her opponent's serve in the first game of Sunday's match and held her serve in impressive fashion in the remainder of the set. The 19-year-old Israeli only lost three points on her service games throughout the first set and after 32 minutes, claimed the opener 6-3.
After holding serve with ease once more in the first game of the second set, Pe'er began to struggle with her service games and Safarova raced ahead. The Czech, who defeated Justin Henin and Amelie Mauresmo over the last couple of months, took the next six games in super-quick time, taking advantage of Pe'er's six double faults in the set, and sent the match into a decisive third set.
Three consecutive breaks of serve at the start of the third set gave Pe'er a 2-1 lead and the Israeli seized control of the match and grabbed a 5-1 advantage. Despite the seemingly unassailable deficit, Safarova fought her way back into the set and reeled off four straight games to come within one game of Pe'er.
However, the Israeli held her nerve and served out the match in the 10th game to book a third career meeting with Chakvetadze.
Later Monday, Pe'er played her second round doubles match with partner Vania King against Emma Laine of Finland and Czech Vladimira Uhlirova.
The Israeli/American duo defeated veterans Severine Bremond of France and Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-2, 7-6(2) in the first round.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who are seeded sixth in the men's doubles, were also in action at Indian Wells later Monday, when they played Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Robin Soderling of Sweden in the first round.