Top-20 Israeli begins preparations for Australian Open

Clijsters knocks out Pe'er in quarters.

shahar peer 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
shahar peer 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Shahar Pe'er was swept aside by world No. 5 Kim Clijsters on Wednesday morning, losing 6-2, 6-1, in a mere 56 minutes in the quarterfinals of the Sydney Medibank International tournament. The Israeli, who will nevertheless climb to a career-best WTA ranking of 17, was outclassed by the former world No. 1, dropping her serve five times during the match and only taking eight points on the Belgian's serve throughout the two sets. "I missed easy shots, I wasn't serving well and her superior experience made the difference," Pe'er said after the match. "I feel that it is only a matter of time before I reach the top 10. It's only a matter of gaining experience and improving my play. You mustn't forget that I've only been on tour for two-and-a-half years." Pe'er will begin her preparations for next week's Australian Open on Thursday when she flies out to Melbourne and will be hoping to improve on last year's first-round exit. "I'm feeling excellent and I'm coming into the tournament with plenty of confidence," she said. "My first two weeks of the year have been very good and I'm hoping to continue this form in the Australian Open." Clijsters, who intends to retire from tennis at the end of the season at the tender age of 24, has yet to lose a match in 2007 and was pleased with her level of play against Pe'er. "I think I served a lot better today than I've been doing so far throughout the whole trip that I've been here," she said. "I'm gradually getting better and better." "There's still a lot of things that I felt I could improve on," Clijsters added. "I didn't really get tested today, but when you play a match like this, you don't look at your opponent, you just try to work things out for yourself. "You try to come to the net a little bit more and I did that today." The 19-year-old Israeli took the first game of the match, but Clijsters broke Pe'er in the third game of the set and grabbed an early lead she would not surrender. The Belgian broke once more in the seventh game and closed out the set in the following game after 28 minutes. Clijsters broke Pe'er's serve in the first game of the second set and never looked back, quickly winning five of the next six games to cruise to a straight-set victory. Venus Williams withdrawsfrom Australian Open Venus Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open, joining top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne as absentees from the first tennis major of the season. Williams told organizers on Wednesday she had aggravated a left wrist injury that forced her out of tournaments late last year and from the Hopman Cup mixed teams competition in Perth last week. The former world No. 1-ranked Williams has never won the Australian Open, her best result being a loss in the final to her younger sister Serena in 2003. The five-time Grand Slam singles titlist was ousted in the first round at Melbourne Park last year by Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova. Williams had an injury plagued 2006, only playing two matches after Wimbledon and finishing the year at No. 48 in the rankings. Henin-Hardenne withdrew last week due to undisclosed personal reasons, while Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova are doubtful starters after withdrawing from a warmup event in Sydney this week. On the men's side, No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Sydney tournament with a groin problem, along with No. 3-ranked Nikolay Davydenko, who retired with a foot injury. Nadal and Davydenko are expected to start at the Australian Open. AP contributed to this report.