After failing to defeat a top-10 player throughout 2009, Shahar Pe’er is beating the best-of-the-best on a regular basis this year.
Pe’er, ranked number 20 in the world, claimed her third victory over a top-10 player in four months on Wednesday, battling back to beat No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2 and reach the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
Pe’er was a break up in the second set and then blew a match point on her serve at 6-5 in the second set. She recovered from the loss of the set to roll through the third.
“It was tough to come back. I had a match point. But I am happy that I came back,” said Pe’er, who improved to 3-1 against the higher-ranked Pole.
In the last eight Pe’er will face the winner of Thursday’s second round match between Dinara Safina (3) and Agnes Szavay (33).
Fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia cruised into the second round on Wednesday, beating Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-2, 6-2.
Seventh-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia also advanced to the second round, beating Marion Bartoli of France 6-2, 6-1 to remain unbeaten in seven matches on clay this year.
Jankovic, a former No. 1 who is seeking her second title of the year after Indian Wells, won the Stuttgart tournament in 2008.
She is now 4-1 in her career against Dulko.
“It was good for the first match. Dulko is tough to play on clay. I played a good first set but had a few ups and downs in the second,” Jankovic said.
Yanina Wickmayer, the eighth-seeded Belgian, also advanced to the second round by beating Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-3, 6-3.
Also Wednesday, Dudi Sela (67) advanced to the quarterfinals of the Challenger tournament in Rhodes, defeating Raemon Sluiter 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal opened his bid for a fifth Rome Masters title with a quick 6-1, 6-3 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Wednesday.
Having withdrawn from last week’s Barcelona Open, Nadal appeared fresh and was able to dictate play with his usual combination of heavy topspin, few unforced errors and an array of baseline winners.
The third-ranked Spaniard improved to 6-0 in his career against his 29th-ranked German opponent.
“It wasn’t my best match but I did well,” Nadal said. “I played safe and I played focused all the time. Philipp made more mistakes than usual.”
Nadal has won this clay-court tournament four of the past five years and is the overwhelming favorite for another victory after top-ranked Roger Federer was stunned by Ernests Gulbis on Tuesday.
Federer got some consolation Wednesday when he teamed in doubles with fellow Swiss player Yves Allegro to beat sixth-seeded Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Paul Hanley of Australia 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 after a champions tiebreaker.
Nadal only faced one break point – at 2-3 in the second set – and saved it when Kohlschreiber missed an easy backhand wide. Nadal then broke in the next game, producing a high passing shot that Kohlschreiber could barely get his racket on, and cruised the rest of the way.
The new 10,500-seat stadium at the Foro Italico was nearly full for the match, but Nadal gave the spectators only 1 hour, 10 minutes of action. He led 18-15 in winners and committed only 11 unforced errors to Kohlschreiber’s 28.
Nadal’s dominance was similar to the display he put on in winning the Monte Carlo Masters two weeks ago – when he dropped only 14 games in five matches and routed Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 in the final.
With Nadal absent, Verdasco won his fifth career title in Barcelona
last week and he edged Italian wild card Simone Bolelli 7-6 (11), 6-3
to open his campaign in Rome.
Also, 2008 runner-up Stanislas Wawrinka eliminated 10th-seeded Tomas
Berdych 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) and 42nd-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat
former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-3.
In another second-round match, fifth-seeded Robin Soderling extended
his solid form of late with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Italian wild card Paolo
Soderling was coming off a runner-up finish at the Barcelona Open,
where he lost to Fernando Verdasco in three sets. In the Swede’s
previous two tournaments – Masters Series events in Indian Wells and
Key Biscayne – he reached the semifinals.
Soderling ended Nadal’s perfect record at the French Open last year and
is in the same quarter of the draw as the Spaniard in Rome.