Shahar stumbles to 1st-round ouster in final French tuneup

Pe'er unexpectedly loses in Brussels Open.

Peer 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Peer 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Pe’er’s season hit a worrying low on Monday afternoon after she dropped to a 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 defeat to world No. 429 Casey Dellacqua in the first round of the Brussels Open.
The 24-year-old Israeli, who fell four places to No. 20 in the rankings earlier Monday, hadn’t lost to a player ranked outside the world’s top-100 since September 2008, but never found her footing against Dellacqua, which was placed as high as No. 39 in July 2008 and only returned from an eight-month injury layoff in February.
The telling statistic from the match was break-point conversion, with Pe’er winning just two of 13 break attempts, while Dellacqua took advantage of five of six chances.
Pe’er will now turn her attention to the second Grand Slam of the year that gets under way in Paris next week, hoping to kick-start her season at Roland Garros, where she reached the last 16 in 2010.
Dudi Sela jumped 39 places to No. 108 in the world on Monday thanks to his triumph at the Busan Challenger tournament in South Korea on Sunday.
Amir Weintraub, who lost in the quarterfinals in Busan, climbed 17 places to a new career best, No. 246.
Beaten Nadal proclaims Djokovic Paris favorite ROME (Reuters) – World No. 1 Rafa Nadal acclaimed Novak Djokovic as the man to beat at the French Open after losing to the Serbian in straight sets on clay for the second time in a week at the Rome Masters on Sunday.
The Spaniard, who has won the title at Roland Garros five times in the past six years, fell 6-4, 6-4 in Italy, seven days after losing his undefeated record against Djokovic on clay in Madrid.
“He’s playing the best right now,” Nadal told reporters. “In the last few months he’s been at a different level. He’s doing amazing things. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. I’m the second in the race. My goal is to be there the next time.”
But Nadal, who has won nine Grand Slam titles compared to Djokovic’s two wins at the Australian Open, hinted that a showpiece occasion would bring a different challenge.
“The big champions are not just those that are able to win every week but those that are able to wait until the right moment,” he said. “I’ve beaten him in the past but now he’s beating me. There are always ups and downs in a career.”
After almost pulling out of the tournament earlier in the week because of a virus, the Mallorcan said his priority was to recover for the French Open, which begins on Saturday.
“The most important thing is to arrive in the right conditions for the next tournament,” he said. “There are many things to do to improve.”
Reuters contributed to this report