Obziler, Sela aiming for Australian Open spots

Shahar Pe'er qualified automatically due to her high world ranking.

tzipi obziler 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
tzipi obziler 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Israelis are heading for the Australian Open next week. While Shahar Pe'er qualified automatically due to her high world ranking, Tzipi Obziler (177) faces Urszula Radwanska (127) in the second qualifying round of the Australian Open on Friday after defeating Czech Zuzana Ondraskova (182) 6-1, 6-0 on Thursday. Meanwhile, in the men's second qualifying round on Friday, Dudi Sela (106) plays Ecuadorian Giovanni Lapentti (216). The pre-Grand Slam tournaments continued on Thursday with top-seeded Serena Williams losing 6-3, 6-1 amid a flurry of errors against Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the Sydney International semifinals. The second-ranked Williams, who saved three match points in her three-set quarterfinal win over Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark late Wednesday, will head to Melbourne for next week's Australian Open. "I gave it away more than anything," Williams said. "I made a lot of errors and made her look like a champ, really. I just pretty much gave her the match." The nine-time Grand Slam singles winner remained optimistic about her chances at the season's first major, saying she is feeling fit and healthy. "It was good to have a few matches under my belt getting ready for Melbourne," she said. "I feel like I'm going play a lot better than what I did this week." Dementieva will face fellow Russian and third-ranked Dinara Safina for the Sydney title, a rematch of the Beijing Olympics final. "I realize how tough it's going to be to play against Dinara tomorrow," Dementieva said. "She's in great shape right now. But it's going to be a great experience anyway. This is what we're all here for. We just want to get the best preparation as possible and play our best in the grand slam." The Russian has noticed improvement in her game over the past year, notably following wins in Dubai in early 2008 and her Olympic triumph. "I've done a lot of good work. All these big results from last year really gives me a lot confidence," Dementieva said. Second-seeded Safina won the earlier semifinal, beating Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 7-6 (3), but said she still had room for improvement. "It's going to be a good challenge, especially before the Grand Slam, to play somebody who's in the best shape," she said. "You cannot really play tactically with them. You just have to go out there and hit the ball." Players have struggled with the heat in Sydney this week, and Thursday afternoon temperatures soared above 104 degrees. In men's quarterfinals, top-seeded Novak Djokovic advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Croatia's Mario Ancic in a match that was suspended twice by rain. Despite previous crowd problems in Melbourne and Sydney involving Serbian and Croatian fans, there were few problems during the match, although there was extra security and police on hand. Djokovic's semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina, who beat former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (3), 7-5. Richard Gasquet also advanced to the semifinals by defeating French compatriot Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-6 (4) and will face Finland's Jarkko Nieminen. Nieminen progressed when his quarterfinal opponent, third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, was forced to forfeit due to a back injury.