Pe’er crushes Cirstea in easy 2nd round win

Pennetta awaits on Saturday; Ram & Erlich bounce back in opening match.

Peer Australian Open 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Peer Australian Open 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Despite facing a tricky match against Flavia Pennetta in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday, Shahar Pe’er will be confident of making it through to the last 16 of a Grand Slam event for the third time in the past four majors.
Pe’er, ranked number 12 in the world and seeded 10th in Melbourne, defeated Romaina’s Sorana Cirstea (94) 6-3, 6-2 in the second round on Thursday, never dropping her serve while converting three of nine break points.
Pennetta (25) easily beat Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-2, 6-2 in the second round on Thursday, but the 23- year-old Israeli seems to be improving with every match, losing just seven games in the first two rounds at Melbourne Park.
Pe’er has a losing 2-3 record against Pennetta, but has beaten the Italian in their past two meetings, including in the third round of last year’s US Open.
In the meantime, Pe’er will be looking to reach the third round of the doubles tournament on Friday.
Pe’er and China’s Peng Shuai, seeded 14th, defeated Germans Andrea Petkovic and Tatjana Malek 6-2, 6-3 in the first round on Thursday and will next play Kimiko Date-Krumm and Shuai Zhang.
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich claimed their first victory since officially returning to being full-time partners at the start of 2011, coming back from a set down to beat Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday.
After more than two years playing mostly with other partners, Ram and Erlich, who are seeded 14th in Melbourne, are committed to playing together throughout 2011.
Their comeback started off with two straight first round exits at Brisbane and Sydney, but they will be hoping to bounce back at the Aussie Open, where they are playing together for the first time since winning the title in 2008.
The Israeli duo comes up against Australians Carsten Bell and Chris Guccione in the second round on Friday.
Meanwhile, if Rafael Nadal is getting nervous as he eases closer to winning his fourth consecutive Grand Slam, he sure isn’t showing it.
After his 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win Thursday over American qualifier Ryan Sweeting, the Spanish star appeared as comfortable talking about his next match – against 18-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic – as he was in beating Sweeting so convincingly.
“Practice a little bit tomorrow, rest in the hotel, maybe going to the aquarium – I go every year. Nothing different,” Nadal said, when asked about his preparations for Saturday’s match.
Nadal hasn’t had any real problems in recent Grand Slams – Thursday’s win was his 23rd in a row in majors going back to the first round of the French Open last year. Since then, he’s carted back to his home in Majorca trophies from Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.
A fourth from the Australian Open – the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup that he won in 2009 – would make him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once.
The other player looking as impressive as Nadal this week is US Open champion Kim Clijsters, who is fast becoming a favorite for the women’s title in the absence of defending champion Serena Williams with a foot injury.
On Thursday, she beat Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-1, 6-3.
Seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic lost 7-6 (3), 6-3 to China’s Shuai, continuing an unimpressive streak of seven losses in eight matches.
Fourth-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-1 win over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, as did fifthseeded Andy Murray, who beat Illya Marchenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
In the last match of the night, 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis advanced with a 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who called the trainer on three straight changes of end in the second set to have his problem right wrist treated.
Del Potro played only three tournaments, including a run to the fourth round here, last year due to the wrist injury.