(photo credit: AP)
Tzipi Obziler failed at the last hurdle in her attempt to reach her first ever WTA tour final on Saturday afternoon, but will nevertheless be ranked among the top 100 players in the world for the first time in her career when the new rankings are published on Monday morning.
The 33-year-old lost 7-5, 6-2, to Russian teenager Yaroslava Shevdova (143) in the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson International tournament in Bangalore, India, on Saturday.
Her 6-4, 7-6 (6) win in Friday's quarterfinal over Hungarian Melinda Czink (107) guaranteed she will join Shahar Pe'er (17) and Anna Smashnova (73) as the third Israeli in the world's top 100.
"I'm so excited - this means there will be three Israeli players in the Top 100, which is fantastic," Obziler said after her victory on Friday. "I think I'll be the oldest to break into the Top 100, this must be some kind of record."
Obziler, who began playing professional tennis in 1990, retired from the tour in 2001, but decided to mount a comeback in 2002 after pushing then world No. 1 Lindsey Davenport all the way in Israel's Federation Cup tie against the USA.
The Israeli, who was playing in her second ever WTA tour semifinal after reaching the last four in Guangzhou in China four months ago, got off to a fantastic start against Shevdova and took a 5-2 first set lead.
However, Obziler, who will on Monday climb about 20 places from her current ranking of 117, began to suffer from a leg injury she sustained in Friday's quarterfinals as the match progressed and the 19-year-old Russian started to dominate.
The Israeli squandered set points and Shevdova took five straight games to wrap up the first set 7-5.
The Russian continued her streak in the second set and grabbed a 3-0 lead on her way to a 6-2 win and a place in Sunday's final.
"I didn't play my best tennis today and she played really well.
Nothing went my way," a disappointed Obziler said after the match.
"I'm very pleased with my play in the last two weeks and I want to continue improving. Reaching the top 100 isn't the end of the story."
Fitness coach Yuval Higar has accompanied Obziler in Thailand and India for the last few weeks and remained positive despite Saturday's defeat. "Obziler was very upset and emotional after the loss. She wanted to win so badly, but succumbed to Shevdova's excellent day," he said. "Tzipi has come along way in recent months and we hope that next month she will continue to progress in the top 100."