Pe’er parades into 2nd round with ease

Sela ousted early by Bellucci; Djokovic has fun in the sun, Stosur wilts, Serena advances.

By
January 17, 2012 23:22
Shahar Pe'er

Shahar Pe'er 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Shahar Pe’er breezed into the second round of the Australian Open in a mere 57 minutes on Tuesday, thrashing Australia’s Isabella Holland 6-2, 6-0.

The Israeli, ranked No. 34 in the world, was accurate on a superb 80 percent (39 of 49) of her first serves and converted five of seven break points for an easy win.

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Standing between Pe’er and a third straight appearance in the third round of the year’s opening Grand Slam is a tough encounter against world No. 15 Sabine Lisicki.

The German, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year, needed three sets to overcome Stefanie Voegele 6-2, 4- 6, 6-4 in the first round on Tuesday.

Lisicki and Pe’er have split their previous four meetings, but the Israeli won their only encounter in the last two years, beating the German in straight sets in the first round in Cincinnati last August.

Elsewhere, Dudi Sela has already turned his focus away from Melbourne after being knocked out in the first round on Tuesday.

Sela (75) was beaten 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 by Thomaz Bellucci (37) in a match far tighter than the eventual result indicates.



The Israeli, who defeated Bellucci in both their previous meetings, served for the first set in the 10th game, only to be broken before falling in the tiebreak.

Sela raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set, but dropped the next three games and was broken once more in the ninth. Bellucci clinched the set on his serve and pulled ahead early in the third before completing the win.

Meanwhile, champion Novak Djokovic made a triumphant return to the venue that kick-started his remarkable 2011 as the former joker of the courts emphatically demonstrated he was not prepared to cede his Australian Open crown without a fight.

Djokovic’s victory in Melbourne last year sparked a remarkable season in which he won three grand slam titles and compiled a 70-6 record as he finally overhauled Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer as the world number one.

On Tuesday, in baking hot conditions similar to those that had tripped the 2008 champion up in his first Melbourne Park title defense, the Serb produced an emphatic 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 victory over Italian journeyman Paolo Lorenzi in 92 minutes.

“It took me a couple games to get into the right rhythm,” Djokovic, who entertained the fans with some flashes of brilliance including an audacious “through the legs” shot, said. “You know, it’s a bit difficult conditions. “I think it was really the hottest day since I’ve arrived here, so trying to get used to that. But I think I played well after the first set was finished.”

Djokovic’s fellow US Open champion, Australia’s Sam Stosur, wilted in the pressure cooker environment on Rod Laver Arena in front of local fans holding heightened expectations as she crashed to a 7-6, 6-3 loss to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

“I really, really wanted to do well here and over the Australian summer,” sixth seed Stosur said of becoming the biggest casualty of the first round. “I did everything I could to try and give myself a good opportunity. “It obviously didn’t happen and it’s not through lack of trying or not wanting it or anything like that. I mean, you can’t pick the times that you want to play well. That’s sport.”

Local fans, however, did have something to cheer about when Lleyton Hewitt rattled off six successive games and come back from a 5-1 fourth set deficit to beat Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 and advance to the second round.

Hewitt, a former world No. 1 who now appears to approach matches as a man who has hired the court for four hours and is going to get his money’s worth, blew a two-set lead and failed to capitalize on Stebe requiring virtually constant treatment on his left calf muscle before he clinched victory in three hours, 58 minutes.

The Australian will now face 15thseed Andy Roddick, who beat Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 though the American said that he expected the match to go the distance, despite Hewitt now being ranked 181st in the world.

“I don’t pay much attention to rankings when it comes to Lleyton. He knows how to win tennis matches,” Roddick said.

“He’s a fighter. I have as much respect for him as I do for anybody in the game, how he goes about his business, how he competes, how professional he is.

“I’ve won the most recent meetings, but I think out of the six that I’ve won, four or five have gone the distance to the last set. We always have a bit of a war. I probably don’t see it being any different.”

Women’s title contenders Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova both had lopsided victories in the afternoon heat.

World No. 2 Kvitova and fourth seed Sharapova were unruffled by the hot conditions with Kvitova’s ruthlessly efficient 6-2, 6-0 victory over Vera Dushevina taking a tick over one hour.

Sharapova was as merciless on Hisense Arena, beating Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 6-0, 6-1 in 58 minutes.

Sharapova had looked like inflicting the third ‘double bagel’ (6-0, 6-0 win) of the tournament in two years before Dulko broke her serve in the third game of the second set, to a massive cheer and sustained applause.

Two other title favorites, however, had to shake off early rust before running out comfortable winners.

Five-time champion Serena Williams, who did not start her match until 23:30 local time after Hewitt’s marathon, struggled to get going against Tamira Paszek of Austria before she won 6-3, 6-2 in 79 minutes.

British fourth seed Andy Murray lost the first set of his match to American teenager Ryan Harrison.

The 2010 and 2011 runner-up at Melbourne Park, however, got accustomed to Harrison’s style of play by the second set and was untroubled thereafter in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

“I’ve never played or hit against him before, so it always takes a bit of time to get used to the guy you’re playing,” Murray said.

“But once I did, I started to play better.”

Reuters contributed to this report

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