Shahar Pe’er set up a mouthwatering last 16 clash with No. 1 seed Serena Williams at the French Open by waltzing past home-favorite Marion Bartoli in the third round on Saturday.
The 7-6 (7), 6-2, straight-set victory ensured Pe’er will enter the world’s top 15 after matching her career-best achievement at Roland Garros, having also reached the fourth round in 2006 and 2007.
Israel’s No. 1 started slowly against 15th-seeded Bartoli on Saturday, taking the first set on a tie break.
But it was full steam ahead in the second set on Court Suzanne Leglen, with Pe’er (ranked 18th) taking no prisoners on the way to a convincing win.
Bartoli was disappointed by the loss, but took some positives from the experience.
“My only regret is that during the first set I had a set ball in the tiebreak, and I missed my backhand,” she told reporters.
“[Pe’er] played on my backhand very often, and instead of playing along the line as I did in the second set, I tried to play crosscourt, and she gained confidence.
“I think again this is going to be a good lesson to improve on this kind of surface.”
It was just another in a list of impressive triumph for the 23-year-old from Maccabim who is in the form of her life.
Pe’er broke Bartoli four times and had 30 winners to extend her record against her rival to 7-2 and ensure no French women remain in the draw.
Bartoli was full of praise for Pe’er, noting her recent rise in form since teaming up with coach Pablo Giacopelli.
“Her main strength was that she came back after she had had an off year, and very few people can climb back to the right level,” Bartoli noted. “She’s very strong, because she went below top 15 and came back up again.”
It won’t be easy for Pe’er against Williams, who battled past her third round opponent, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, on Saturday afternoon despite needing a visit from a doctor on court Philipe Chatrier who gave her pills to help her cope with mild illness.
World No. 1 Williams has defeated Pe’er in every one of their four meetings on the WTA tour, although they haven’t played since meeting in the last 16 of the Rome Masters in 2007.
Since then, Pe’er has had her ups and downs. However, she has clearly been on top of her game in 2010, reaching the semifinals in Madrid and Stuttgart in recent months.
Williams appeared in danger of crashing out earlier Saturday, when she fell behind 5-0 in the second set and summoned the trainer.
But soon her court movement improved, her strokes steadied and she advanced to the fourth round.
“Just ran out of a little energy out there,” she said of the visit during a changeover from a trainer, who checked her temperature and gave her pills.
Pe’er said she was “just fighting a cold and fighting sickness.” Pavlyuchenkova admitted it is never easy against the best female player on the planet.
“Doesn’t matter the score, especially against her,” she said. “She’s a good fighter. She’s really confident and she is Serena.”
The seesaw victory assured Williams of retaining the No. 1 ranking after the tournament.
Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 29th, fell to 8-1 this year in three-set matches. Williams is 100-44 in three-setters.
“After she beat me she has to win the tournament,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I really hope so.”
Also Saturday, Andy Ram and his Austrian partner Julian Knowle made it
through to the third round of the men’s doubles, defeating the
all-French pairing of Gael Monfils and Josselin Ouanna 6-3, 7-6 (4).
Ram was ousted in the mixed doubles event with Russian partner Elena
Vesnina, however, with the pair falling 10-8 in a tiebreaker to
Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic after they split the first two
There was also disappointment for Ram’s former partner Yoni Erlich, who
was knocked out of the doubles along with partner Dudi Sela by
Australian Stephen Huss and Brazil’s Andre Sa in a straight-set 6-4,
AP contributed to this report
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