Local Tennis: Pe'er, Levy claim fifth national titles

Shahar grinds out win over Obziler while Harel topples Sela; Ram takes doubles.

Harel Levy and Shahar Pe'er both claimed the fifth Israeli championship title of their careers on Friday. Both singles finals in Ra'anana were tight affairs and came down to the final games of the third and decisive sets. In the first final of the day, Pe'er struggled with her form, but nevertheless grinded out a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (2) victory over Tzipi Obziler to win her third straight Israel title. The surprise of the day would come in the men's final, where Levy never allowed favorite Dudi Sela to dictate the play, claiming a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory to win his second consecutive title in Ra'anana. "I won the match because I always believed I would," said Levy, who also lifted the title in 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2007. "This is just the start of the season and Dudi isn't in top form yet. I beat him last year as well so this is nothing new for me. The final wasn't played at a very high level, but it was an interesting match and its fun to end the week as the winner." Levy (247 in the world) opened a quick 4-1 lead in the first set, but Sela (112) quickly tied the score at 4-4 thanks to two breaks of serve. Israel's number one player, however, lost his composure once more in the subsequent game, and Levy broke serve on his way to a 6-4 victory in the first set. Sela got back on track at the start of the second set and tied the match after winning five of the final six games of the set. The top two seeds split the first six games of the third set and it was Sela who got the first break in the seventh game. The 22-year-old, however, failed to build on his lead, allowing Levy to break back immediately. In the 11th game, Sela had his chances to go in front once more, but Levy held his serve and clinched the match with another break in the subsequent game. The women's final was just as exciting as the men's. Pe'er (38) took the first set 6-4 after an Obziler (174) double fault, but after winning the first game of the second set lost six games on the trot and the momentum shifted well and truly in the veteran's favor. Obziler opened a 4-1 lead in the third set and seemed to be on her way to a fourth Israeli title. Pe'er, however, never gave up hope and tied the score at 4-4. After holding serve in the next four games the players entered a decisive tiebreak to determine the winner. The breaker was no where near as close as the match was, though, with Pe'er opening a 4-0 lead on her way to an easy 7-2 win. All those in attendance were constantly on their feet throughout the thrilling final match cheering the extended rallies and difficult shots being returned by both players. "Tzipi really surprised me. I haven't played her in a while," said Pe'er, who also lifted the trophy in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2007. "I didn't play well this week and I hope this title gives me a boost ahead of the new season. I was a little tired at the start of the match, but as always I didn't give up and pushed myself to the victory." On Saturday, Andy Ram claimed the doubles title despite playing with his coach Noam Behr in the absence of the injured Yoni Erlich. Ram and Behr defeated Levy and Noam Okun 6-1, 6-4, with Julia Glishko and Nadine Fahum winning the women's doubles title thanks to a 6-1, 6-1 won other Esther Masuri and Shir Perkis.