Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich got their 2006 campaign started in flying colors with a straight-sets win over the top seeds in the doubles final at the Adelaide International in Australia on Monday. The win gives the Israeli duo six ATP doubles titles together and stops a four-match losing streak in tournament finals.
Seeded second, Ram and Erlich edged Paul Hanley and new partner Kevin Ullyett 7-6(4), 7-6(10) in a match that was just short of two hours. The Australian/Zimbabwean pair saved two match points before Ram and Erlich pulled out the win.
"It was very hot but we knew the third set was going to be a match tie-break so it wasn't going to make such a difference," Ram, 25, told the ATP Web site.
"We knew it would be a very close match but we were very concentrated and we knew what we wanted to do. Our game plan was to hold our serve first of all and we did that without any breaks and then we just tried to go for it on the return.
"I think it was a big advantage for us that we were playing our third year together, actually starting our fourth, and they were playing their first tournament together. It's a big advantage and they have to adjust to each other. Our chemistry on the court, not only in the final but all the way through the week was perfect. We are improving from last year and we are going the right way."
"I think we were more relaxed than they were and I think from the beginning we were attacking and playing more aggressive than them," Erlich said. "Eventually it was just a matter of two or three points."
This week Ram and Erlich continue their preparations for the Australian Open at the Medibank International in Sydney. Their first-round opponents will be Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement.
Serra upsets Malisse in Adelaide singles final
Florent Serra beat Xavier Malisse of Belgium 6-3, 6-4 in the singles final at the Adelaide International for his second ATP title.
Serra, who finished last season ranked No. 49, converted all six of his breakpoint chances, while Malisse, bothered by a blister, wasted three breakpoints in the opening game.
Frenchman Serra broke Malisse's serve in the eighth game and then served out for the set.
He went ahead 4-2 in the second and held on to win as the last four games went with serve.
Serra, who improved 159 places in the rankings last season, won his only previous title at Bucharest last season.
"Adelaide was where I played my first ATP tournament (in 2003) so I'm very happy to win here," said Serra. "Because I won in Bucharest last year I was a bit more relaxed but it was still tight."
Pe'er tops Sprem in Canberra
Shahar Pe'er recorded her first win of the season Monday. The teenager, ranked 46th in the world, defeated Karolina Sprem (67) of Croatia 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round of the Canberra International. She was upset last week in the first round at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. In the second round, Pe'er will face either American Meghann Shaugnhessy (64) or Eleni Daniilidou (96) of Greece.
Anna Smashnova (40) is scheduled to begin her season on Tuesday when she meets American Laura Granville (59) at the Hobart International. The Israeli No. 1 will also make a rare doubles appearance, teaming with Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan to face the second seeded Spaniards, Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Nuria Llagostera Vives.
AP contributed to this report.