Tzipi Obziler, Harel Levy qualify for Australian Open

Pe'er (41), the 2004 girls' champion, will be making her senior debut at the tournament.

shahar peer 88 (photo credit: )
shahar peer 88
(photo credit: )
Tzipi Obziler and Harel Levy both won their third qualifying-round matches at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Saturday to advance to the main draw of the season-opening Grand Slam. They join Anna Smashnova, Shahar Pe'er and doubles team Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich as the only Israelis that will take the courts this week. Obziler, who is ranked 116th in the world, scored a 6-2, 6-2 win over Ivana Abramovic (201) of Croatia to secure her berth. Ironically, the 32-yearold, who reached the second round in each of the past two years at the event, has - on paper - the easiest first round opponent of the Israeli delegation. Obziler will face Ukrainian Olga Savchuck (188), who is making her Grand Slam debut. Smashnova's (40) first opponent will be Slovakian Martina Sucha (96), who reached the fourth round in Melbourne four years ago. Smashnova advanced to the third round last year, equaling her best performance achieved twice previously. Pe'er (41), the 2004 girls' champion, will be making her senior debut at the tournament after her bid to qualify last year fell short. She opens against Japanese veteran Shinobu Asagoe (39), who will be making her eighth appearance at the tournament. Levy (218) outlasted Norikazu Sugiyama (374) of Japan 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-2 in a match that lasted two hours and 11 minutes to qualify for the Australian Open for just the second time. He previously reached the second round in 2001. This will be his first Grand Slam since the 2004 French Open. Levy's win was also a bit of revenge for countryman Dudi Sela (170), who lost to Sugiyama in the second qualifying round on Friday. Levy will meet American Kevin Kim (99) in the first round. In their only previous meeting, Levy defeated Kim 7-6(3) 6-3 at Indian Wells in 2004. Singles play begins on Monday. The draw for the doubles event, where Ram and Erlich are expected to be seeded eighth, has not yet been released.