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Anna Smashnova started the defense of her Budapest Grand Prix title Tuesday with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Greek No. 1 Eleni Daniilidou.
The veteran Israeli, who has tumbled to 63 in the world in recent weeks, is seeded eighth at the event. Despite their current rankings, the match between the two former top 20 players was played on center court and didn't disappoint.
Smashnova used a pair of breaks to easily win the first set, but Daniilidou (66) broke back at the start of the second and made that stand up to even the match. The third was an even encounter until Smashnova finished strong, winning the last two games to clinch the victory.
In the second round, she'll face Spain's Laura Pous Tio (107), a straight set winner over Russian qualifier Alisa Kleybanova (198) earlier in the day.
The International Tennis Federation announced Tuesday that it would award Smashnova a special merit award for setting the all-time record for Fed Cup appearances with 61. Similar awards have been awarded in the past to Austria's Barbara Schett, American Zena Garrison and India's Leander Paes.
Smashnova will have a chance to increase her total when Israel next plays in the competition in early 2007. Captain Dedi Jacob's team learned its potential opponent in World Group II on Tuesday when the ITF released its new rankings. Israel, which moved up four spots to 15, is not one of the seeded teams in the group and therefore will take on either Slovakia (9), Austria (10), Canada (11) or Germany (12).
On Monday, Fed Cup teammate Shahar Pe'er (26) scored a come-from-behind victory over local wildcard Amber Liu (682) in the opening round of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. The seventh-seeded Israeli, playing for the first time since Wimbledon and the breakup with her coach Adam Peterson, won 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.
After struggling early, Pe'er won the last 12 games of the match to close it out. Peer struggled through the first set, lost the first game of the second set and was trailing 0-40 in the second game when things began to click.
"She had the advantage playing on her court, but I have no excuses," Pe'er said. "Amber played a lot of winners in the first set. I just mixed it up better and changed my strategy a little bit."
The 19-year-old Pe'er won 15 of 17 points after losing seven of the first eight of the second set.
"I was still there at 0-40 on my serve and in the end I was playing well," said Pe'er, who was also asked by reporters about the fighting between Israel and the Hizbullah in Lebanon.
"I had a couple of bad days last week because it was weighing on my mind and people are dying, but you have to live your life."
Liu, a two-time US college singles champion while at Stanford, was playing in her third professional tournament.
"The biggest difference between her and me was she started serving better and she had more energy," Liu said.
Pe'er will next face the winner of Tuesday's first-round match pitting Ukrainian qualifier Olga Savchuk (102) against Australian Samantha Stosur (43). Pe'er was also scheduled to be in action in doubles Tuesday, partnering German Anna-Lena Groenefeld. The third-seeded pair opens against China's Meng Yuan and Mariana Diaz-Oliva of Argentina.
AP contributed to this report.
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