Tennis: Shahar Pe'er defeated again in Gold Coast semifinals

The 20-year-old Israeli couldn't find her rhythm against her Belarusian opponent, who converted all five of her break points.

peer 88 (photo credit: )
peer 88
(photo credit: )
Shahar Pe'er fell at the semifinals stage of the Gold Coast tournament for a second straight year on Friday, losing 6-4, 6-2 to doubles partner Victoria Azarenka. The 20-year-old Israeli, who survived five match points against Dinara Safina on Thursday to reach the last four, couldn't find her rhythm against her Belarusian opponent, who converted all five of her break points. "Azarenka played really well," Pe'er said. "I tried everything and she barely made any mistakes. I tried to mix-up my shots and to make changes, but unfortunately it was her day and she deserved to win. "I wasn't tired from the win over Safina and I'm disappointed every time I lose." Pe'er flew on Saturday to Sydney where she will play in the Medibank International that will start on Monday. China's Na Li, playing her first tournament in six months due to injury, beat Azarenka 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday in the tournament final. Li last played in Birmingham, England in June, but suffered a rib injury that saw her sit out the rest of 2007. It was the 25-year-old Li's second WTA Tour title, adding to her 2004 victory in Guangzhou. Li beat top-seeded Nicole Vaidisova in the quarterfinals and No. 4 seed Patty Schnyder in the semifinals here. Azarenka needed treatment for a right upper thigh injury when leading 4-3 in the first set. She called a medical time out and returned with her leg heavily strapped, but it did not appear to affect her movement. In the deciding set at 4-4, Li broke Azarenka's service in the ninth game, hitting a stinging backhand on break point that Azarenka couldn't reach. Li then held service in the next game, winning on her first match point when Azarenka hit a forehand long. Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich squandered an excellent opportunity to reach their first final of the year in Adelaide on Saturday, losing in the semifinals 6-4, 6-4 to the wild card pairing of Chris Guccione and Robert Smeets. Ram and Erlich, who defeated Chris Haggard and Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-1 in Friday's quarterfinals, will play in Sydney next week and could face the world's No. 1 team of Bob and Mike Bryan in the quarterfinals. Also Saturday, Venus Williams beat Russia's Maria Sharapova in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to win the JB Group Classic exhibition in Hong Kong, another warmup for the Australian Open. Both players held serve comfortably in the early games, but the Russian faltered first. Serving at 4-5 in the first set, Sharapova sent a backhand into the net after a long rally and then missed another backhand to give the American a one-set lead. World No. 5 Sharapova, a past winner at Wimbledon and the US Open, was erratic in the second set. Down 2-3, she double faulted and missed a forehand to give the reigning Wimbledon champ the crucial break. Sharapova did save two match points in her final service game, but Williams held to love to take the match, closing out the game with a forehand winner. Saturday also saw Lindsay Davenport win her third title in four events since her comeback to tournament play when she beat France's Aravane Rezai 6-2, 6-2 in the ASB Classic final. Davenport improved to 18-1 in singles since her return from the birth in June of her first child, son Jagger. Jagger Jonathan Leach, aged six months, was courtside Saturday for his mother's victory, held by his nanny, but seemed nonplussed by the occasion and cried when first introduced to the crowd. He was quickly calmed by Davenport and took an eager interest in proceedings, including the presentation of the $22,000 winner's check. The win followed Davenport's tournament victories in Bali - after a 51-week absence from the tour - and Quebec City and her semifinals appearance in Beijing. The Auckland title was her 54th, moving her ahead of Monica Seles and into eighth place on the all-time list of WTA tournament winners. Davenport was playing in Auckland for the first time and will play no other tournaments before the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, starting January 14. She will be bidding to win that title for the second time. The right-hander, who was last No. 1 in January 2006, re-entered the top 100 in November and was unseeded at Auckland on her entry ranking of 73. French-born of Iranian parentage, Rezai counted Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova among her singles victims during the 2007 season. She upset third-seeded Katarina Srebotnik en route to the Auckland final while Davenport beat compatriot Laura Granville, fifth-seeded Anabel Medina-Garrigues, Sara Errani and sixth-seeded Tamira Paszek. She dropped only one set in four matches. She won the first set Saturday in 25 minutes, breaking Rezai in the second and eighth games and the second in 34 minutes, breaking in the fourth and eighth. In winning, Davenport improved her percentage of wins in singles to 79.4 per cent - 792 wins in 918 matches - which is the best percentage in WTA history. "I came here with the goal of winning this tournament and, being unseeded, you never know how the draw turns out," she said. "But I was happy with the way I was able to play well at times, not perfectly at others, but really come through the tournament and just lose the one set." Davenport is also surprised her comeback has been so successful so quickly. "I started off playing a few of the smaller tournaments, Tier 3s and 4s, and it's astonished me," she said. "I didn't think my body would bounce back as fast as it has after giving birth, and the strain of pregnancy, so I'm excited now about going to the huge stage of the Australian Open and seeing what can happen. Davenport overpowered Rezai, who contributed to her own defeat with a high percentage of unforced errors. "Lindsay was playing well and she didn't give me time to play well," Rezai said.