Israelis make early waves Down Under

Pe’er pulls out three-setter in first round; Weintraub wins for first time in a major; Sela downed by Davydenko.

Israel's Dudi Sela 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel's Dudi Sela 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Shahar Pe’er claimed her first win on tour in six months on Tuesday to advance to the second round of the Australian Open, while Amir Weintraub recorded his first-ever Grand Slam victory in Melbourne.
The only blemish on the day for Israeli tennis was Dudi Sela’s first-round exit, although he went down fighting, losing 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 to world No. 40 Nikolay Davydenko.
Pe’er, who dropped to No. 90 in the world on Monday, her lowest position since 2005, defeated Russian Alexandra Panova (93) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 after losing her first two matches of the season to players ranked outside the top-100.
Panova won nine more total points than Pe’er, with both players recording six breaks of serve in an erratic encounter.
Pe’er reeled off five straight games to clinch the first set, and after conceding the second in just 29 minutes, fought back in the third for a desperately-needed confidence-boosting victory.
Next up for Pe’er is an intriguing showdown with 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm (100), who stunned No. 12 seed Nadia Petrova 6-2. 6-0.
Date-Krumm, who made her return to professional tennis in 2008 after an 11-year retirement, became the oldest woman to ever win a match in the Open era at the tournament.
“Some people, the player’s mother is younger than me – so it’s like my daughter,” laughed Japan’s Date- Krumm, who is 17 years older than Pe’er. “Everybody is almost half age as me, so it’s not easy but I’ve got nothing to lose so I just try to keep going.”
Weintraub (196) was playing his first ever match in the main draw of a Grand Slam event after coming through the qualifiers and he convincingly beat Guido Pella (97) 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-2 in one hour and 57 minutes.
“I’m in tears,” Weintraub wrote on his website after the match. “I’m really emotional. This is my greatest win on tour in every aspect. I hope not to wake up from this dream.”
Weintraub will have to record a real upset if he’s to progress past the second round, with No. 17 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber his next opponent after the German beat Steve Darcis 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams refused to let a painful tumble divert her from her quest for a sixth Australian Open title on Tuesday as Roger Federer and Andy Murray progressed almost untroubled towards their goals on day two at Melbourne Park.
Williams picked herself up to complete a resounding 6-0, 6-0 victory over Edina Gallovits-Hall, a ruthless dominance that world number one and defending champion Victoria Azarenka was unable to replicate as she progressed to the second round.
Swiss master Federer beat Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 to embark on his campaign for an 18th major title after Briton Murray had steadied his Grand Slam nerves with a controlled 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Robin Haase.
After an underwhelming opening day of the tournament on Monday, the sheer wealth of talent on display on the show courts almost ensured a better day two under the sunny skies at Melbourne Park.
There is no bigger personality in tennis than Williams, who is chasing a third successive Grand Slam title after wins at Wimbledon and the US Open, and the American almost inevitably hogged the spotlight.
Rampaging towards victory, the 31- year-old turned her ankle after hitting a forehand and lay prone on the court for a couple of dramatic minutes – immediately recalling her fall at Brisbane last year that ultimately ended her 2012 Melbourne campaign.
“It was definitely a lot of pain,” she said. “Also a little bit of the memory, as well. So it was definitely a little bit of both. But also at the same time trying to gather myself together and trying to make sure that I can continue.”
She was soon back up, ankle strapped, to complete the rout and said nothing would stop her from taking to court for her second round tie against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.
“I’ll be out there,” she said. “I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing. I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
While Williams is pursuing her 16th Grand Slam title, Murray is hoping to bag his second after his triumph at the US Open last year and he made short work of Dutchman Haase.
“There’s nerves in the build-up,” the third seed said. “You just got to try and focus and play solid, not make too many silly mistakes. I did a good job of that today.”
Federer, four times a champion in Melbourne, easily negotiated what had been billed as potentially difficult tie against young French shot-maker Paire.
“I’m obviously very happy with this first-round match, so total control,” he said. “He can be a tricky opponent but I guess his playing style doesn’t disturb me that much overall.”
Federer remained on a third-round collision course with Australian Bernard Tomic, who delighted the home crowd with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over Argentine Leonardo Mayer.
Women’s top seed Azarenka was forced to come back from 3-0 down in the second set in her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Romania’s Monica Niculescu.
With second seed Maria Sharapova having also won her first-round match without conceding a game, Azarenka might have been looking to make a similar statement but the Belarussian said she was just happy to be back on the court.
“I couldn’t wait to get out there and play,” said the 23-year-old, who pulled out of the Brisbane warm-up after suffering a toe infection following a pedicure.
“I think I had a good first match. That’s what I needed to get into that competitive spirit, which I did. I’m happy.”
Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki looked like she might be on her way home but the 10th seeded Dane battled back from a set down to beat German Sabine Lisicki 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Reuters contributed to this report