Pe'er's strength will pull her through current slump

Pe'er, obviously, hasn't forgotten how to play the game and technically her shots are as sound as ever.

peer hurray 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
peer hurray 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe'er never had the fiercest forehand or backhand on the WTA tour and she most definitely never won any matches thanks to a superb serve. Pe'er had one big advantage over her opponents which made her so successful - a mental edge. And for that very reason the slump she's currently experiencing is so trying and telling. Pe'er, obviously, hasn't forgotten how to play the game and technically her shots are as sound as ever. However, as her two losses in the Fed Cup tie against the Czech Republic made painfully clear, Israel's top sportswoman has lost her trademark confidence and cool, and the psychological advantage she possessed in the past has crucially turned into a weakness. Pe'er's resolve and character were the keys to countless victories against players who were many times the more talented, but not this year. With the 2008 tennis season already passing the halfway mark, you can't help but label her year so far as a bitter disappointment. The 21-year-old's record in the WTA tour and the Fed Cup so far this season is 17-12. The less than impressive record is, however, far more alarming when you take a deeper look into the matches Pe'er has won and lost this year. Despite her poor form, Pe'er has managed to maintain her place in the world's top-20 and is currently ranked No. 18. But, of her six encounters with superiorly ranked players, she has lost four, with her two wins coming against Russian Dinara Safina, who was ranked a couple of places higher than the Israeli at the time of their matches. Much more troubling, however, are Pe'er's losses to inferiorly ranked players. Pe'er has always struggled against top-10 players, but in previous years has done extremely well against mediocre opponents. So far in 2008 Pe'er has lost eight times to players ranked lower than her, including last week's first round defeat in the German Open to world No. 102 Sabine Lisicki, the first time since May 2005 the Israeli has lost to a player outside the world's top-100. This week Pe'er was scheduled to play in the Tier I event in Rome, but pulled out, announcing that she has instead chosen to return to Israel for rest and treatment on a shoulder injury. It is, however, quite clear that her decision to withdraw from such a big tournament is not only for physical rest, but for a mental breather as well. Pe'er is supposed to play her final warm-up event ahead of Roland Garros in Strasbourg next week, but is currently still undecided whether to return to the tour next Monday. So serious is her current crisis that she's is even considering pulling out of the French Open. The inhuman pressure the tennis tour puts on its players is clearly taking its tool on Pe'er and now the only question remaining to be answered is how she will respond to the hard times she's experiencing. "Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records," American author William A. Ward once wrote. I'll be very surprised if anything but the latter will prove to be true for Pe'er.