Can Pe’er make that elusive leap against Serena in Paris?

Win or lose in the last 16, the 23-year-old has continued her superb year and is already guaranteed of equaling her career-best ranking of number 15.

Shahar Peer doing the splits 311 (photo credit: AP)
Shahar Peer doing the splits 311
(photo credit: AP)
PARIS – Whatever happens in her fourth round match against Serena Williams at Roland Garros on Monday afternoon, this has undoubtedly been an excellent French Open for Shahar Pe’er.
Win or lose in the last 16, the 23-year-old has continued her superb year and is already guaranteed of equaling her career-best ranking of number 15.
Facing the world No. 1 may be a depressing thought for Pe’er. After all, she has lost all four of her previous meetings with the American and is a combined 0-9 against the Williams sisters.
However, as unlikely as a victory against Serena may seem, Monday’s match presents an important opportunity for Shahar.
Pe’er has already proven she can beat top-10 players on a regular basis this year, winning half of her 10 meetings against the world’s best so far in 2010.
What has escaped her so far over the past six months, and throughout her career, is a victory against the true elite of the past decade.
Pe’er is 0-13 in her career against the Williams sisters and Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, losing all five of her matches against these players this year without taking a set.
Against Venus alone, Pe’er has lost three times in straight sets this year. It should therefore come as little surprise that Serena plans to ask her sister for some advice ahead of Monday’s encounter.
“Venus plays her a lot, so she knows her game really well,” Serena said of what she plans to do ahead of her encounter with Pe’er. “I have a great opportunity to talk to her and I’ll go from there.”
Serena may have very few weaknesses, but Pe’er has no intention of going down without a fight.
“I believe I can beat Serena,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “If I’m aggressive and play my good tennis I think I have a chance.”
Pe’er will be playing in the last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since Wimbledon in 2008 but for the third time at Roland Garros.
In 2006 and 2007, Shahar came up short against the superior Martina Hingis and Henin, respectively, and on Monday an extraordinary player will once more stand between her and a first-ever quarterfinal berth in Paris.
Serena has not only won four of the last six Grand Slams, but even when she does lose in the greatest tournaments on earth, she rarely does so against an opponent ranked outside the top 10.
Since the 2006 Australian Open, Williams has been knocked out of aGrand Slam only once by a player not ranked among the top 10,incidentally on the French clay. Katarina Srebotnik, then ranked No.24, beat Serena in the third round at Roland Garros two years ago, butthe American has only failed to make a Grand Slam semifinals once since.
Nevertheless, Israeli doubles specialists Andy Ram is confident this could be Pe’er’s time.
“She’s facing a very tough match, but I believe she can beat her,” hetold the Post. “I spoke to her coach this morningand he really believes that she is ready. She’s ready both mentally andphysically and even if she doesn’t win she deserves to be a top-10player.”
Pe’er undoubtedly faces an uphill battle on Monday, but the rewards for a victory could be career changing.
A win would not only move her on the verge of the top-10, but will alsocement her place as a world beater, transforming an already outstandingRoland Garros into a truly unforgettable one.