Pe’er reaches second straight semi, but falls to Krum

The Israeli tennis star's dream of ending the 2010 season with a title ended in a heartbreaking fashion in Japan.

Shahar Peer doing the splits 311 (photo credit: AP)
Shahar Peer doing the splits 311
(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe’er’s dream of ending the 2010 season with a title ended in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Israeli, ranked 13 in the world, was one service game away from a place in the final of the HP Open in Osaka, Japan, but failed to close out her semifinal encounter against local hero Kimiko Date Krumm (56), falling 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5.
After going five months without reaching a semifinal, Pe’er ended the year on a high by advancing to the last four in her last two tournaments in Beijing and Osaka.
Even though the event in Japan was the last on her schedule for the year, she could yet play again in 2010.
Pe’er is set to remain at No. 13 in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday, and also looks to be on course to be one of the two alternates at the prestigious season-ending WTA Championships in Doha at the end of the month.
Only the top eight women are invited to play in Doha, with two alternates to also travel to Qatar.
However, with Venus Williams and Justine Henin already announcing they will not play again this year and Serena Williams also saying that she is likely out for the season, Pe’er has got a good chance of being offered a flight to Doha as an alternate and recording yet another landmark achievement in her career.
Saturday’s victory means Date Krumm remains on track to become the oldest player to win a WTA singles title.
“Considering my age and the years I was away from the tour, I would say this is a miracle” said Date Krumm, who turned 40 last month. “I just hope that my physical and mental health will last one more game.”
Date Krumm’s opponent in the final will be another veteran – 33- year-old Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, who upset second-seeded Marion Bartoli of France 6-2, 7- 5.
The oldest player to win a WTA singles title was Billie Jean King in Birmingham in 1983 when she was 39 years, 7 months and 23 days old.
Date Krumm, who ended a 12- year retirement in April 2008, reached the third round of the Pan Pacific last month after beating defending champion Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4 Saturday to set up a match-up with Andy Murray in the final of the Shanghai Masters.
Murray dispatched Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-4, 6-1 in the other semifinal to reach his fourth final of the year.
Federer could capture the 64th title of his career Sunday, moving him into a tie with Pete Sampras for fourth place on the all-time list.
But Murray has won seven of their 12 career matches, including the last time they played in the Toronto Masters final in August – the Scot’s only title of the year.
With his win over Djokovic, Federer will regain the No. 2 ranking he lost when he was beaten by the Serb in the US Open semifinals in September.
Federer was under pressure at the start, fighting off four break points in a tight third game before finally holding when Djokovic hit a forehand long.
The Swiss player then began attacking the net more, setting up a break point of his own at 5-5 with a backhand approach shot that Djokovic hit into the net. He converted when the Serb put another shot in the net and easily closed out the set.
Federer broke twice more in the second set to seal the match, his 11th victory over Djokovic in 17 meetings.
“I think the first set could have gone either way today,” Federer said. “It was really an open battle.
I got the better of him at the end of the first set. I think for 10 minutes he was a bit out of it and I was able to take advantage of that.”
Djokovic, who had been attempting to capture back-toback titles in China after winning last week in Beijing, said that losing the first break was the key to the match.
“The start of the second set, I lost my focus a little bit, my energy dropped,” he said. “Yeah, in a blink of the eye, I was two breaks down at 4-1.”
Murray broke Monaco’s serve early in the first set before taking a 5-2 lead.
But he committed four straight errors when trying to close out the set and dropped serve for only the second time all week.
The Scot turned it around with defense in the next game. After breaking a string, he saved three overheads with backhand lobs before Monaco finally missed a smash wide. Monaco dropped seven of the next eight games to lose the match.
“I chased a lot of balls down, and he made a few mistakes,” Murray said. “Points like that can sort of change matches a little bit. But I was still feeling quite comfortable, even at that stage.”