Shahar set to turn subpar start around

Pe’er gets first-round bye at Indian Wells; Djoker has opportunity to supplant Federer.

Shahar Peer 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Shahar Peer 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Two weeks after suffering one of the most lopsided defeats of her career, Shahar Pe’er returns to action this weekend at the prestigious Indian Wells tournament in California.
Pe’er’s last match on the WTA Tour ended in a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Marion Bartoli in the second round in Doha, Qatar, the third time in five tournaments this year that the 23- year-old Israeli has failed to progress past the second round.
Despite her mediocre season so far, Pe’er, ranked No. 12 in the world, remains just 175 ranking points from a place in the top-10 and will be hoping for another successful week at Indian Wells, an event she has enjoyed success at throughout her career.
In four of her previous five appearances at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Pe’er has reached at least the last 16, advancing as far as the quarterfinals in 2007.
As the No. 10 seed, Pe’er has received a first-round bye this year and is awaiting the winner of Wednesday night’s match between Bethanie Mattek- Sands and Vera Dushevina.
Meanwhile, the top men’s players will also be in action in Indian Wells over the next week, with in-form Novak Djokovic, who has won two titles this year including the Australian Open, looking to replace Roger Federer as world No. 2.
The third-ranked Serb is scheduled to meet Federer in the semifinals and would surpass the Swiss in the global rankings should he win that encounter.
For Djokovic, though, the rankings will take care of themselves. He is much more concerned with staying fit and maintaining his superb early-season form.
“I want to take one tournament at a time,” the 23-yearold told reporters in the build-up to the first Masters Series event of the year. “I’ve been talking about my goals too many times in the past years and right now I just want to be playing consistently well.
“I want to keep up the good form that I have, stay fit and just take care of my health and my physical condition.
“I’ve done it really well in the last two months. I know that if I feel and play this way, I have a good chance to stay in the top three,” added the Serb, who reached a careerhigh second in the rankings in February last year.
Djokovic has been the dominant figure in the men’s game this year, crushing Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, to claim his second Australian Open title in late January and then outplaying Federer 6-3 6-3 to win last month’s Dubai championships.
Helped by a much improved serve, the Serb has signaled he is a genuine third force at the top of men’s tennis – along with Federer and world number one Rafael Nadal.
SIGNIFICANT FACTORS Federer, however, believes that fourth-ranked Swede Robin Soderling and Britain’s Murray (fifth) are also significant factors at the game’s summit.
“The top-five players have played really well the last six months,” Federer, a threetime champion at Indian Wells, said after losing the Dubai championships final to Djokovic.
“Someone always has to win one tournament. At the end of the day, we’ve been able to share those a little bit to be honest. So I don’t feel it’s a three-horse race right now."
“Rafa still is the favorite. He’s won three of the four slams. Novak has not lost a match yet this season, but the season is still really short. I’ve been playing well. Murray has been playing well. Soderling hasn’t been playing bad.”

Soderling has won three ATP tournaments this season, more than anyone else, and is seeded to meet Nadal in the semifinals at Indian Wells.
Spaniard Nadal will be bidding for a third title at the imposing, state-of-the-art Indian Wells venue, having previously triumphed here in 2007 and 2009.