Pe’er, now 24, returns to WTA tour in Madrid

Israeli, ranked number 11 in the world, is a mere five points from Serena Williams and the top-10.

Shahar Peer 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Shahar Peer 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Shahar Pe’er will be looking to celebrate her birthday in style on Monday when she faces Alisa Kleybanova in the first round of the Madrid Open a day after turning 24.
The Israeli, ranked number 11 in the world, is a mere five points from Serena Williams and the top-10, but she has plenty of ranking points to defend this week, having reached the semifinals in Madrid last year.
Pe’er, who will return to the WTA Tour after almost a month off, has beaten Kleybanova (25) in both of their previous meetings, including in the second round in Madrid last year.
On Sunday, holder Aravane Rezai (24) slumped to a 6-3 3-6 6-4 defeat by qualifier Sofia Arvidsson in the first round in Madrid.
The Frenchwoman stunned Venus Williams in last year’s final but was undone in her opening match on the clay in the Spanish capital by Swede Arvidsson, who is ranked 65 places below her.
World number one and top seed Caroline Wozniacki breezed through her firstround match against Ayumi Morita, beating the unseeded Japanese 6-2 6-3.
Third-seeded Italian Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion, edged past China’s Peng Shuai 7-5 7-6, while former world number one Maria Sharapova had to come from a set down to beat Dutch wildcard Arantxa Rus 2-6 6-3 6-2.
Russian Sharapova has been battling back from a shoulder injury that needed surgery in October 2008 and broke back into the top 10 again after reaching last month’s Miami final.
The 24-year-old, a former Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion, was confident she could rise further than her current ranking of nine.
“Everyone has the goal of being number one,” she told a news conference.
“It’s a great achievement for me to get back into the top 10 but that’s not where I want to end. I see myself going a lot further than that.”
Dane Wozniacki, who lost to Dinara Safina in the 2009 Madrid final, said her preparations for the latest edition had been good following her defeat in the final of the clay tournament in Stuttgart last week to German Julia Goerges.
“I came here early and had quite a few practices,” the 20-year-old told a news conference.
“The first match is always tricky but I felt I played pretty good.”
Also Sunday, Novak Djokovic won the Serbia Open without dropping a set after beating Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 7-6 6-2 in Sunday’s final to stretch his unbeaten record in 2011 to 27 matches.
It was the 23-year-old Serb’s fifth title this year, after he captured the Australian Open, the Dubai Championships as well as Masters series events in Indian Wells and Miami.
Djokovic, who won the inaugural event in 2009 and had to retire with illness in the early stages last year, was delighted to have won the tournament organised by his family.
“I wish to thank my family and my staff for supporting me all these years and also the fans who make this event that much more enjoyable for me to take part in,” said Djokovic, who will play in Madrid this week.
“I am really glad that Feliciano had such a great tournament after accepting my invitation to come here.
“We are making a huge effort every year to bring the top players to Belgrade and it’s not easy because it takes place only a week ahead of the Madrid Masters.
“Hopefully, we will be able to make it an ATP 500 event very soon and I am looking forward to returning next year.”