Hero’s welcome for Pe’er despite semi defeat in Dubai

Shahar says she will never forget her ‘dream week’ in the Emirates after losing to Venus 6-1, 6-4.

peer hits 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
peer hits 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe’er returned to a hero’s welcome when she touched down in Israel on Saturday, after having her magical run at the Dubai Tennis Championships brought to an end by Venus Williams in the semifinals on Friday.
The 22-year-old Israeli, ranked number 22 in the world, experienced one of the best weeks of her life in the Emirates.
She defeated Yanina Wickmayer (15), Virginie Razzano (24), Caroline Wozniacki (3) and Li Na (10) on her way to the last four of the $2 million event she could not compete in last year after being denied a visa to the country.
“It was a tough week tennis wise, but mainly difficult psychologically because of everything that was going on around me,” said Pe’er, who lost 6-1, 6-4 to Williams (5), who defended her title with a victory over Victoria Azarenka on Saturday. “I will never forget this week. It was a dream week in which everything fell into place.”
Tournament organizers restricted Pe’er’s movement to the tennis courts and her hotel throughout the week, with the Israeli completely separated from the rest of the players and playing all her matches on the outside courts.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” said Pe’er. “I was isolated in the hotel and in training. The only time I saw other people was during my matches.
“Fortunately I had access to the internet and that allowed me to remain connected to the outside world. I learned how to focus on the important things. I felt like the Prime Minister. I had Bill Clinton’s and George Bush’s body guards.”
Williams was full of admiration for Pe’er’s accomplishments.
“I cannot even speak of what it must be like for her,” Williams said. “She played so well this week.”
“I am definitely pleased to be in the final,” Williams added. “I wondered how I would feel playing against her, if I would feel the pressure she might feel. But once I was on the court, I was just focused.”
Williams agreed to defend her title this year only if Pe’er was admitted to the Emirates. That earned gratitude from Pe’er.
“I told her I really appreciate her support this week and last year,” Pe’er said, adding that Williams took the decision to move Friday’s match to a side court gracefully.
It was a difficult first set on Friday for Pe’er, whose defensive approach failed to slow Williams, who raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set.
Pe’er won the fifth game against serve, but Williams quickly extinguished the Israeli’s hopes of a comeback by taking the final two games to win the set in just 23 minutes.
In the second set, the players traded breaks early before Williams secured a decisive second break in the seventh game.
Williams then survived five break points in the following game to go 5-3 up, and served out.
“She started very strong. She was all over me,” Pe’er said. “I felt like I had no time in the points. I think I played a very good second set. I missed one or two chances, but overall it was good tennis.”
Pe’er downplayed the controversy that resulted in a $300,000 fine forthe Dubai tournament last year, saying she was pleased with how theweek had gone.
“I think I achieved a lot in this tournament, professionally andmentally. I’ve been going through a lot and I am really happy how Imanaged this week.
“I learned I am a very good player and I can be there at the top.”
AP contributed to this report.