DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – After making a surprise run to the semifinals last
year, Shahar Pe’er is proving once again that she feels right at home here in
this desert oasis.
On Thursday, Pe’er, ranked 11 in the world, defeated
Yanina Wickmayer (25) 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the third round of the Dubai Tennis
She will face world number two Caroline Wozniacki in the
quarterfinals on Friday, 12 months after defeating the Dane in the last 16 at
the same event.
Wozniacki will be wellrested ahead of the quarterfinal
match after steamrolling her way through Japanese qualifier Ayumi Morita 6-1,
6-0 on Center Court on Thursday night.
However, the 20-year-old starlet
expressed some concern about being required to play on Court Two, due to
security measures in place to protect Pe’er.
“Having to play on an
outside court is completely different,” Wozniacki said. “[Pe’er] has a
big advantage. The court is quicker, there’s not as much space on the
sides, and the ball travels differently.”
It will be Wozniacki’s first
venture to a side court since her loss to Pe’er here last year, a straight-set
defeat in the third round.
Wozniacki said she understood the
“The most important thing for me is that I’m safe,” she said.
“If they think it’s not safe to play on Center Court, then of course I’ll play
on Court 2. There’s nothing you can do. I would have loved to play on Center
Court, no doubt about it. It’s a nice court, and it has Hawk-Eye as
Pe’er, who was not allowed to comment on her security situation,
focused on the match itself.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Pe’er, who
has lost to Wozniacki once since last February, in October’s China Open
semifinals. “She’s playing her best tennis right now, so it’s going to be a
As an appetizer for Friday’s match, Pe’er had her first dose
of deja vu on Thursday – she also defeated Wickmayer in Dubai last
“Last year against Yanina was a tough match, 7-5 in the third,” she
said. “But today was also tough. I came back from behind, and I’m happy I
The Court One stands were about two-thirds full by the middle of
the match, and Pe’er had far more support in the crowd than she did in
Wednesday’s win over Alexandra Dulgheru, though Wickmayer’s supporters were
louder and more numerous.
The Israeli, ranked ninth in the tournament,
struggled early on, missing several of her first serves by a few meters. A
double fault in her second service game handed Wickmayer an early 3-1
But she broke back with some terrific returns, including two
inside-out forehands that nicked the line and froze the Belgian.
service problems continued as Wickmayer broke once more to take a 4- 2 lead, and
eventually served out to take the first set.
The second set featured a
string of six consecutive breaks, giving the match a topsy-turvy feel, with both
players struggling to find any sustained momentum.
But Pe’er felt in
“I think I was controlling the whole second set,” she said. “I
was always a break up, but I always got broken pretty easily.”
point late in that run of breaks, Pe’er turned towards her father, Dov, in the
stands and exclaimed frustratedly in Hebrew, “I don’t know how to serve!” The
turning point came at 4-4, with those breaks in her rearview mirror.
four-all I served a really good game,” Pe’er said. “I started to play better. I
think that game at four-all was when things started to go my way.”
5-4, Pe’er came out of a rest looking more energized, determined to get one last
break. She got three quick points to give herself three chances to head to a
Wickmayer, whose second round win over China’s Na Li ended
late Wednesday night, mustered the strength to get back to deuce, and Pe’er
looked to be in danger of letting any advantage slip away.
23-year-old summoned the intensity she had harnessed at the start of the game,
and pushed the match to the third set with two mammoth returns.
set looked as if it might continue the breaky trend of the second, as Pe’er fell
behind 15-40 in the opening game.
But she turned to some tricky serves to
restore some order to the match.
At the same time, Wickmayer’s fatigue
seemed to start to get the better of her, as the Belgian’s unforced errors
became far too frequent and too egregious, and she handed Pe’er an advantage in
the second game, her forehand not the weapon it was in the first
From that point on, Pe’er coasted to the win, breaking the
20-year-old once more in the process, and flashing a look of relief and
excitement towards her father and coach after match point.
afternoon wasn’t over yet for the Israeli.
Only 30 minutes later, Pe’er
was back on Court One, teaming up with Romanian Monica Niculescu to take on
American Lisa Raymond and Australian Samantha Stosur in the second round of the
Pe’er could have taken as much time as she wanted,
but chose to take as short a break as possible.
“I didn’t want to get
cool and need to warm up again,” she said. “It’s better to get going as fast as
possible after I finish.”
Pe’er and Niculescu fell 7- 5, 5-7, 10-7 in
what was a close match that will perhaps be remembered best for an extremely
questionable call that robbed the Israeli- Romanian pair of set point in the
Niculescu delivered a beautiful lob that appeared to drop several
inches inside the baseline, and was not called out by the line judge.
chair umpire Anna Voevodina overruled and called it out, prompting a “what’s
going on here?” from Nicolescu.
“It was obviously in, and everybody saw
it,” Pe’er said afterwards. “But there’s nothing you can do about that.”