Pe’er falls to Lepchenko in Madrid second round

Shahar Pe'er squanders a golden opportunity to finally string together consecutive wins.

Shahar Pe'er  390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Pe'er 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Pe’er squandered a golden opportunity to finally string together consecutive wins on Tuesday, losing 7-6 (2), 6-4 to Varvara Lepchenko in the second round of the Madrid Open.
Pe’er, ranked No. 53 in the world, was broken five times against Lepchenko (77) and failed to progress past the second round for a seventh straight tournament.
Top seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova made serene progress past Czech opponents into the third round earlier Tuesday.
Azarenka dispatched Andrea Hlavackova 6-3, 7-6 and Sharapova saw off Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-3.
Sharapova, who beat world No. 1 Azarenka in the Stuttgart final last month, was first up on the unfamiliar blue clay of the Manolo Santana show court, a controversial innovation at this year’s edition of the event that has prompted mixed reactions from players.
With the sliding roof closed to keep off the morning drizzle, the Russian soon found her range and broke Zakopalova’s serve in the opening game.
The three-time grand-slam singles champion wobbled when serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set but broke again in the next game for a comfortable win.
Sharapova said the blue clay was a little more slippery than its red counterpart but that she generally approved of the decision to switch colors, which organizers argue makes it easier to follow the yellow balls on television.
“I did feel a bit of a difference with the amount of clay that is on the court and the bounces were a bit off, especially the first couple of days of practice, but I feel like it’s gotten better and settled in a little bit,” she told a news conference.
“You just have to work on your balance a bit more,” added the 25-year-old world No. 2, who will be chasing the only Grand Slam that eludes her at the French Open starting later this month.
Belarussian Azarenka had newly-appointed adviser Amelie Mauresmo watching from her box alongside coach Sam Sumyk and made short work of Hlavackova, who needed treatment on a problematic left thigh midway through the second set.
Like Sharapova, Azarenka missed a chance to serve out the match in the second set but went on to take the tiebreak 7-2 and will next play Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, a former world No. 1 who is seeded 13.
“It is a little bit slippery but it’s the same for everybody,” Azarenka told a news conference when asked about the blue court.
“I don’t like to complain about the surface, it is what it is,” the Australian Open champion added.
“You have to deal with it and nobody’s going to change it now so everybody is playing in the same conditions.”