Pe’er powers through to Hobart International semifinals

Israeli tennis star gets the best of former world No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze to advance; set to face Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.

Shahar Peer 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Peer 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It took Shahar Pe’er seven months to reach her only semifinal of last year, but on Friday she will already be playing her first semi of 2012 after getting the better of Anna Chakvetadze in the quarterfinals of the Hobart International in Australia on Thursday.
Chakvetadze, a former world No. 5 who has dropped to No.234 following illness and injury setbacks, was forced to retire after being broken in the first game of the decisive third set suffering from what officials said was severe cramping.
The Russian looked impressive in winning the first set 6-4, but she also first showed signs of not being fully fit late in that set and Pe’er (37) tied up the match with a 6-4 win in the second before Chakvetadze threw in the towel after just one game in the third.
Standing between Pe’er and her first WTA Tour final since late last July when she progressed past the quarterfinal stage of a tournament for the only time in 2011, is top seed Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium.
Wickmayer beat Simona Halep 6-4, 6-0 in the quarters on Thursday and has a 3-2 career record against Pe’er, although they split their two meetings last year.
Israel No. 2 Julia Glushko (209) closed to within two wins of reaching her first ever main draw at a Grand Slam tournament after defeating Japan’s Rika Fujiwara 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round of qualifiers at the Australian Open.
Next up for Glushko is a tough meeting with Andrea Hlavackova (116).
Meanwhile, China’s Li Na drew on her superior fitness to reach the final of the Sydney International on Thursday with a 1-6 7-5 6-2 victory over Czech world number two Petra Kvitova, who started brilliantly but ran out of steam.
The resilient Li dug deep to recover from a first-set pasting to book a place in the final of an event she won last year and extinguish her exhausted opponent’s hopes of becoming world number one before the Australian Open starts on Monday.
In the other semifinal, world No. 3 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus performed a similar escape act to Li in beating Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6 6-3 6-2 to qualify for Friday’s final.
In a worrying sign before the Melbourne Park tournament that is traditionally a survival of the fittest in the blazing Australian summer heat, Kvitova admitted she had hit the wall in the deciding set.
“I played very well the first set, I was the one making the winners,” Kvitova told reporters.
“After that, it was very tough. I was a little bit slower in the moving and she played really well. Now I’m really tired. The next tournament is Melbourne, so hopefully I will be better and not as tired as now.”
Kvitova was looming as a strong favorite for the first Grand Slam event of the season before Li ran her ragged, her fatigue in the later stages of the match suggesting the asthmatic might struggle in day matches in Melbourne.
Had Kvitova won the tournament she would have claimed the world No. 1 ranking from Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, who was defeated by Radwanska in the quarterfinals.
Wozniacki suffered a wrist injury in her match against the eighth-ranked Pole but an MRI scan on Thursday cleared her of any serious damage.
Reuters contributed to this report