Tennis: Pe’er claims historic spot in Dubai semis

Venus Williams, Shahar’s next opponent, describes Israeli star as "courageous' and "brave."

Peer Australian Open  (photo credit: AP)
Peer Australian Open
(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe’er’s inspirational run at the Dubai Tennis Championships refuses to end.
After going 10 matches without a victory against the world’s top-10 ranked players, the 22-year-old Israeli, who missed out on last year’s tournament after being denied a visa to the Emirates, claimed her second win over a top-10 player within 24 hours on Thursday.
Pe’er advanced to the semifinals of the $2 million event after China’s Li Na, ranked number 10 in the world, retired with Pe’er leading 7-5, 3-0.
Li left the court with a troublesome lower back, but at that stage Pe’er was already in complete control of the match after yet another outstanding display.
Pe’er’s impressive week in Dubai has already seen her get the better of Yanina Wickmayer (15), Virginie Razzano (24) and world number 3, Caroline Wozniacki, and it isn’t going to get any easier for the Israeli in the semifinals where she will face fifth ranked Venus Williams.
Venus defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Pe’er, who has reached at least the semifinals for the third time in four tournaments this year, was delighted with her form.
“I’m beating so many good players,” she said. “It’s really good and I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I think I’m playing very, very well, and everything is coming together. So I just hope to keep going.”
Despite the fact that around 5,000 people have bought center court tickets for the semifinals, Pe’er’s match against Williams has been moved to Court No. 2 for security reasons.
Pe’er has so far played all her matches on Court No. 1, but the change in venue will enable some 1,000 spectators to watch, far more than have been able to attend her matches so far.
Tournament organizers have restricted the Israeli’s movement to the tennis courts and her hotel throughout the week, with Pe’er also being completely separated from the rest of the players, being given a private dressing room and gym.
“The tournament has said that security is paramount. And it is the security and police who dictate what happens,” tournament referee Alan Mills said.
“I’m the only player that hasn’t played on center court,” said Pe’er. “But whatever will be, will be. I’m not controlling it. I’m doing what I’ve been told, and wherever I need to play, I’ll play on. I’m not involved in the schedule.
“I just get the schedule when my coach tells me when I’m playing and on which court, and I get ready for the match.”
Williams, who was one of the few players who spoke out about the UAE’s denial of Pe’er’s visa last year, was full of accolades for the Israeli’s performance in Dubai this week.
“She’s just brave. She’s got so much character. I can’t imagine being in her shoes,” said the seven-time Grand Slam winner. “I can’t imagine playing so well with these kinds of circumstances. I just have to give her congratulations and props. She’s courageous. I don’t think anyone else on the WTA Tour could do what she’s doing.”
The other semifinal will feature Victoria Azarenka against Agnieska Radwanska.
Azarenka had little trouble rubbing out Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-3 for the second time in two months.
Azarenka beat Zvonareva for the first time en route to the Australian Open quarterfinals and was even more impressive this time. Zvonareva, winner of seven straight matches including the Pattaya title, was broken six times and fourth-seeded Azarenka saved seven of nine break points.
Seventh-seeded Radwanska pulled off a comeback against Russianqualifier Regina Kulikova, winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in 2 hours, 18minutes. Kulikova, ranked 99, eliminated French Open champion SvetlanaKuznetsova a day before and showed no fear again, making Radwanska workhard to reach her first semifinals since October.

AP contributed to this report.