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(photo credit: Frankie Sachs)
Shahar Pe'er returned home triumphant on Monday afternoon after two of the most successful weeks of her professional tennis career. Pe'er was all smiles as her father, Dovik, mother Aliza, sister Shani and coach Dedi Ya'acov greeted her at Ben-Gurion Airport along with a host of reporters.
Sporting a crystal cup from her first career WTA Tour title two weeks ago at the Pattaya Women's Open in Thailand and the sports section of the Bangkok Post from the following day with a huge photo of her celebration after defeating Jelena Kostanic of Croatia in the final, Pe'er made it clear that there is still work to be done.
Shortly after the new WTA rankings were published with the 18-year-old moving up to a career-best 34th (and 67 in doubles), she said: "I need to keep climbing in the rankings... My opponents already know that I'm a tough opponent and they're certainly not happy to play me."
She also related that players on the tour know she'd been drafted to the IDF and always ask questions about her service.
"They're all surprised when I tell them I've been trained to fire a rifle," Pe'er said. "They ask if it's scary and I tell them no as scary as facing me on the court."
During her 10-day stay at home, Pe'er will need to spend time fulfilling her military commitment, but also will look to improve her game. Shortly after she landed, the noted Canadian coach Louis Cayer joined her.
"Dedi and I will create new objectives for her and then try to maximize a way to reach them faster," Cayer explained.
Cayer, who also visited in December to work with Pe'er and doubles players Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, called Pe'er a "true winner" and added that "the first title is always the toughest."
Ya'acov said "the sky's the limit" for Pe'er. "We expected her [to win a title] this year, but we didn't know it would happed so quickly."
Pe'er is next scheduled to play at the Tier I events in the USA next month, staring with the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, and followed by the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami.
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