Tennis: Israel enters final day of Estonia tie knotted at one

World No. 53 Shahar Pe'er puts in typically gutsy performance to get the better of Estonian No. 2 Maret Ani.

Shahar Peer 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Shahar Peer 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel's Fed Cup team believes it has every chance of avoiding relegation from the World's top 16 nations on Sunday, with its World Group II playoff tie in Estonia delicately poised at 1-1 after the first day's play in Tallinn. World No. 53 Shahar Pe'er put in a typically gutsy performance to get the better of Estonian No. 2 Maret Ani (111) after Tzipi Obziler (228) had been easily beaten by the 19th-ranked player in the world, Kaia Kanepi. Pe'er overcame a shaky start to defeat Ani 6-1, 6-0, and Obziler's effort in the first rubber of the day, where she lost 6-1, 6-3 will be the main cause of concern for Israel captain Lior Mor. Obziler, 36, is playing in the 61st Fed Cup tie of her career and appeared well off the pace after only recently returning from a back injury. The Givatayim councilor, who made her Fed Cup debut in 1994, was played all over the court by Kanepi who produced in a clinical display on the hard court of the Tondi Tennis Club in the Estonian capital. As such, Mor may be considering replacing Obziler with Israel's third player Julia Glushko (306) for the reverse singles match against Ani. A defeat to Estonia will see Israel relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone. The Israeli women found themselves in this situation after losing to Russia in a fiery tie at Ramat Hasharon last summer in what was an historic appearance in the top-8 World Group. They then dropped out of the World Group following a 3-2 defeat in the Czech Republic. Although the situation will be extremely difficult for the Israelis on Sunday, Mor spoke positively about the tie at the end of the day's play. "Essentially, I am satisfied with the players' performances today," Mor said. "Shahar was very impressive and Tzipi also did well even though she lost. "Everything is possible tomorrow. Every scenario is available. We need to win two of three points and I believe we will do this. It will be particularly good to bring home the victory so close to Israel's Independence day [on Wednesday]." Obziler started well, winning the first game of her encounter with Kanepi. But the 21-year-old up and coming star soon got the better of the veteran Israeli, reeling off nine straight games to win the first set and go 3-0 up in the second. There was a glimmer of hope for Obziler when she won two straight games, including breaking her opponent, to pull back to 3-2. But Kanepi came right back into the frame with power to win the next two games and close out the match with a simple cross-court shot. Obziler said that throughout her match Kanepi had illustrated to her just why she is ranked in the world's top 20. "I tried to do the maximum but she was too good for me," Obziler said. "But if you look at the glass half full I feel more prepared for tomorrow. All in all, the score is now 1-1. I think it is good for us and we hope ad believe we can win two points from tomorrow' games. After the Obziler loss, the pressure was on Pe'er. But the Israeli, who was ranked a career-high 15th in the world in January 2007, dug in and took control of her match with Ani from the start. The Estonian won the first game of the match but was unable to find a way past Pe'er despite playing a series of super shots. Ani came closest to making an impact in the sixth game of the first set when she came led 40-15 on the Pe'er serve and had a chance to pull back to 4-2. But she squandered her opportunities and was left 5-1 down. From there, it was all Pe'er and the 21-year-old Israeli cruised through the second set 6-0. "I am happy with the way I played today," Pe'er said."Estonia has some good tennis players. Kanepi is an excellent player and it won't be easy for me tomorrow," she added with a look to Sunday's singles. "I hope to claim two more points and lead us to the win." If the tie is tied after Sunday's singles games it will be decided by a doubles match.