Sinai Says: Smashing success

For all her achievements until this year, only now can we truly say that Pe’er is a world-class player.

November 10, 2010 07:25
3 minute read.
SHAHAR PE’ER is looking to build upon a remarkable

Peer 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

This may sound strange, but 2010 was a breakthrough year for Shahar Pe’er.

The 23-year-old Israeli may have initially burst onto the world scene in 2006 and 2007 when she rocketed to No. 15 in the WTA rankings while reaching two Grand Slam quarterfinals.

However, for all her achievements until this year, only now can we truly say that Pe’er is a world-class player, with all that entails.

There are numerous positives to take from Pe’er’s 2010 season.

Her record of 47 wins and 21 losses was the best of her career, but the impressive part was not the sheer amount of victories she registered but rather who she beat and how she beat them.

Pe’er entered the season with a 10-match losing streak against players ranked in the world’s top-10, having not beaten one since she got the better of Dinara Safina in June 2008.

However, she ended the year with five victories out of 14 attempts against top-10 opponents, including a win against current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Equally significant were the encouraging facts that of her 21 losses, only two were against opponents ranked outside the WTA’s top-50, and that she was knocked out in a first round of a tournament only twice this year.

Pe’er may have ended 2010 without a title, but she reached one final and six semifinals, including in the premier events in Dubai, Madrid and Beijing.

For the first time since 2007 she advanced to the last 16 of two Grand Slam tournaments, making the fourth round at Roland Garros and the US Open, while also amassing a career-best $1,122,052 in prize money this year.

However, as useful as money is, its importance pales in comparison to that of the maturity attained by Pe’er over the past 11 months.

“Pe’er’s accomplishments this year are a result of the fact that she has matured,” former Fed Cup and Davis Cup captain Oded Jacob told me.

“It has allowed her to view her game as well as her life from a new angle. It helped Shahar judge her strengths and weaknesses in a more mature and objective manner.”

Jacob, who was one of the main people behind Pe’er’s initial rise, coaching her for six years from the age of 13, believes Shahar’s former coach Pablo Giacopelli, with whom she split in July, deserves much of the credit for her resurgence.

“Pablo made some excellent technical and tactical changes to her game,” Jacob noted.

“He brought her back to aggressive and offensive tennis.

It is true that her game is based on her defensive play, but we saw her play much closer to the baseline this year, taking the ball far earlier, while also attacking her opponents’ second serve.

“She also improved her own serve, maybe not in speed, but certainly in diversity. She returned to play tennis the way she did in 2006 and 2007 and that is all a result of very intense training.”

Not only has Pe’er stopped wallowing in defeats, choosing instead to try and learn all she can from her setbacks, but she also showed notable mental strength off the court when she quickly rebounded from the surprise departure of Giacopelli after almost two years together.

Pe’er progressed to the semis in her last two tournaments of the year and even made the prestigious season-ending WTA Championships in Doha as an alternate after climbing to a career-high No. 13 in the world, which remains her current position in the rankings.

“Pe’er’s real test will be at the start of next year,” Jacob said.

“She must first maintain her place in the rankings and with the many changes at the top of the women’s game, it would be no surprise should she break into the top-10. She came close to a top-10 ranking in 2007 and maybe the lessons she learned from that experience will help her this time around.”

The past year leaves Pe’er with plenty of reasons for optimism entering 2011.

Already the greatest Israeli female athlete of our times, the Pe’er legend is only expected to grow, not only next year, but for many years to come.

“There is no doubt that Pe’er is at the very top of her sport in terms of character, determination and competitiveness,” Jacob said. “The sky is the limit for an athlete who works so hard and is so committed.”

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