Obziler crashes out in Antwerp

34-year-old Israeli, who fell to No. 92 in the world rankings on Monday, will drop further down the rankings following Tuesday's defeat.

Obziler 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Obziler 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Tzipi Obziler's chances of playing in the Olympics suffered another blow on Tuesday after she was defeated 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 by Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the WTA Tier II event in Antwerp. The 34-year-old Israeli, who fell to No. 92 in the world rankings on Monday, will drop further down the rankings following Tuesday's defeat and is struggling to meet the Olympic Committee of Israel's criteria of being ranked among the world's top-50 players. Following the defeat, Obziler will return to Israel before heading out to Dubai next week to play in the qualifiers of the tournament, which gets under way on February 25. Shahar Pe'er, who continues to be ranked 17th in the world, will fly to Doha over the weekend ahead of the start of the $2,500,000 Qatar Total Open, which begins next Monday. Dudi Sela, who equaled his career best ranking by climbing to No. 63 on Monday despite not playing on tour last week, will not be in action this week and will only return to play at San Jose next week. Meanwhile, Karin Knapp of Italy rallied to beat Yaroslava Shvedova of Russia 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals at the Diamond Games on Tuesday. In the first round, Julie Ditty of the United States upset eighth-seeded Alona Bondarenko 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden overwhelmed Meilen Tu of the United States 6-1, 6-2 to set up a second-round match against No. 2 Anna Chakvetadze of Russia. Top-ranked Justine Henin opens her campaign for her second title of the year Thursday in front of a 13,500-strong crowd at the Sports Palace. Amelie Mauresmo, who won the past three editions to pick up a diamond-studded racket trophy last year, decided against defending her title. Three spectators were kicked out of the Diamond Games tournament because they were betting on a match online from the stands. Organizers said Tuesday that the three were seen betting on points in real time from their laptops during a first-round match on Monday and were asked to leave. No further action was taken. The WTA Tour is taking a tough stance against gambling at tournaments, especially after betting scandals on the ATP tour have tarnished the sport. The WTA Tour has said that up to half a dozen players have been approached to throw matches but insists that no match outcomes have been affected by gambling so far. In other tennis news, former star player Ilie Nastase resigned as head of the Romanian Tennis Federation on Tuesday, after newspapers criticized him for spending too much money on a Davis Cup match against France which Romania lost 5-0. Nastase said he was also resigning because he had failed to purchase a building and land for a tennis academy, which had been one of his goals. "I have been defeated by the justice system and the press in Romania," he told Realitatea TV. "I have decided to resign because there is no reason for me to be active in Romanian sports." Nastase, a major star in the 1970s and Romania's best ever player, held the position for eight years. On a television show late Tuesday, he admitted making a telephone threat to a journalist because critical newspaper reports last week were creating tensions with his wife. Daily Evenimentul Zilei carried articles last week ahead of the France match, claiming that the federation had wrongly overcharged for accommodations and the materials for the tennis courts. Reports suggested that federation officials may have been pocketing money. Nastase said a court in the western city of Timisoara had prevented him from buying land for a tennis academy after the current owners, also a sporting club, had objected to the deal. The court said a government decision allowing the federation to purchase the land was not valid. Defending champion Xavier Malisse and second-seeded Tommy Haas were ousted in the first round of the Delray Beach International on Monday. Both Haas and Malisse arrived at the tournament coming off medical issues. The No. 27-ranked Haas, who lost to Diego Hartfield of Argentina 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, was playing in his first match of the year after having a third surgical procedure on his right shoulder in mid-November. "When you have surgery you hope it goes well," Haas said. "Overall, it feels pretty good. This is my first test. I started playing a lot more tennis the last 10 days and overall, I'm kind of happy with how I played." Malisse, who played in only five tournaments last year because of a right wrist injury, was ousted by American Bobby Reynolds 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. For Haas, 29, there seems to be a possibility that his playing days might be nearing an end. "It's a tough game, but I love it so I'm trying to come back and see how it goes," Haas said. "Many times I want to throw in the towel and maybe retire. I consider myself pretty young, so I'm going to try and see what this game brings to me." Haas couldn't find his competitive edge in the opening set, but managed to muddle his way through to win a tough second set where the games were long and difficult. Despite taking that set, Haas knew his shoulder was not going to have the power needed to play at an optimum level to get him through the third set in which he fell behind 4-1. "Unfortunately, the shoulder kind of left me a little bit after the second set and I just didn't have the power that I needed," Haas said. Malisse, who reached the quarterfinals in Chennai last month, has won this tournament twice and has been in the final five times since 1999. The Belgian was only able to take advantage of two of 17 break points in the match. Reynolds, who won his first ATP match of the year with the victory over Malisse, converted four of his eight break-point chances. "I tried to battle but I didn't have much confidence," Malisse said. "The wind made it even tougher. I played bad and made some bad decisions on the court. I don't mind losing if I'm playing well." BC-LA-SPT-TEN-Brasil Open,0211 Gustavo Kuerten begins farewell tour with a doubles loss COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) - Three-time French Open champion Gustavo "Guga" Kuerten began his professional tennis farewell tour with a first-round doubles loss at the Brasil Open. Kuerten and countryman Andre Baran went down 6-3, 6-3 to Italy's Fabio Fognini and Filippo Volandri on Monday in this seaside resort in northeastern Brazil. The 31-year-old Kuerten, who held the No. 1 ranking in December 2000, announced last month he will retire from professional tennis after the next French Open, which starts May 26 at Roland Garros. He won the last of his 20 ATP Tour titles in 2004, before he had hip surgery. Also Monday, top-seeded Carlos Moya of Spain defeated countryman Santiago Ventura 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti beat wildcard entry Thomas Bellucci of Brazil 6-2, 6-2 and eighth-seeded Albert Montanes of Spain downed France's Nicolas Devilder 6-4, 6-4. Italy's Fabio Fognini defeated Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), and Serbia's Boris Pashanski had a 6-4, 6-4 win over Argentina's Martin Vasallo Arguello.