Pe’er putrid in first-round Paris ouster

Shahar snaps Grand Slam streak with straight-set defeat; Stosur, Ferrer among early victors.

SHAHAR PEER 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For the first time in over two years, Shahar Pe’er was knocked out in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament on Sunday, losing 7-6 (4), 6-1 to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain in the opening round of Roland Garros in Paris.
Since tasting defeat in the opening round of the Australian Open in January 2009, the 24-year-old Israeli, ranked No. 20 in the world, had reached at least the second round in seven straight Grand Slam events.
However, on Sunday, she got no less than she deserved, falling to an inferiorly ranked player, who was simply better than her on the day.
Despite hitting 69 percent of her first serves in, Pe’er’s service games were dominated by Martinez Sanchez (87), who took 45 of a total 75 points on return.
Martinez Sanchez converted just six of 14 break points, but it was still more than enough to clinch the win in an hour and 43 minutes to leave Israel without a representative in the French Open’s singles tournaments after just one day of action.
Dudi Sela chose to forego the men’s event in the hope of picking up rankings point on the Challenger circuit, successfully doing so by winning the events in Busan, South Korea and Fergana, Uzbekistan in the last two weeks, leaving Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich as the only remaining Israelis at Roland Garros.
Ram and Erlich were drawn on Sunday to face Fabio Fognini and Filippo Volandri in the first round of the doubles tournament, with No. 2 seeds Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi their likely opponents in the second round should they advance.
However, regardless of the result Ram and Erlich achieve in Paris, it is Pe’er’s play which will be remembered as the disappointment of the tournament on the Israeli front.
Everything seemed to be going to plan when Pe’er came back from 1-4 and 0-40 down to eventually take a 6-5 lead in the first set.
However, she failed to close out the set on her serve and lost the subsequent tiebreak, shifting the momentum well and truly in Martinez Sanchez’s favor.
The match was heading in one direction only after the Spaniard broke Pe’er once more to start the second set and Martinez Sanchez went on to cruise to the win with embarrassing ease, sending Pe’er out at the first round for the third time in her last four tournaments.
Also in the women’s tournament, gusty winds and halfempty stands gave no sense of the usual Parisian glamour as last year’s French Open runnerup Samantha Stosur began with an easy win on Sunday.
Stosur shook off the effects of a virus to beat Czech Iveta Benesova 6-2 6-3 on a sunbathed, yet windswept court Philippe Chatrier.
“The conditions weren't always so easy with some gusts of wind and whatever else, but, yeah, overall, very happy,” said Stosur.
None of the top six seeds in the men’s draw were scheduled to play on Sunday, with Stosur the highest seeded player in action in the women’s draw.
Also in the men’s event, Spaniard David Ferrer made a dazzling start to his French Open campaign with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 first-round victory over Finn Jarkko Nieminen.
The tournament will really pick up speed on Monday when Novak Djokovic faces Thiemo De Bakker in the first round, looking to extend his 37-match winning streak since the start of the year, and Roger Federer plays Feliciano Lopez.
Reuters contributed to this report.