US Open: Pe'er reaches round of 16, to face Henin

19-year old Israeli beat the Italian 6-3, 6-7, 7-6; Okun bows out; rain delays Saturday start.

Noam Okun 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Noam Okun 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Shahar Pe'er reached a new peak in her young professional tennis career on Friday when she reached the fourth round of the US Open in New York. The 19-year old Israeli, currently ranked 21 in the world, beat Francesca Schiavone of Italy (15) 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(3), and is expected to climb into the top 20 when the WTA releases its next rankings following the last Grand Slam of 2006. The 14th-seeded Schiavone thought she had Pe'er on the ropes in the third set, but the Israeli teen responded to force the second tiebreaker of the match and then put the Italian away to set up a round of 16 matchup against Justine Henin-Hardenne. "I'm simply amazed," Pe'er's coach, Oded Teig, told reporters after the stunning comeback. "It was a fantastic game of tennis and I just have not seen such things for a long time. There was a gripping atmosphere and Schiavone's gallant effort made it all the more impressive." Israel's premier doubles pair, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich defeated the inexperienced Americans Jessie Levine and Sam Querrey 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a first round men's doubles match. Ram and Erlich's second round encounter against Jeff Coetzee of South Africa and Dutchman Rogier Wassen was scheduled for Saturday, but rain had delayed the start of all matches as of press time Saturday night. Noam Okun, Israel's only hope in the men's singles draw, bowed out despite a gritty second round performance against Lukasz Kubot of Poland. The Israeli Davis Cup team veteran split the first four sets 6-7, 4-6, 6-2 and 6-2, but fell short in the decider and lost 4-6. On Friday evening, Pe'er made a brilliant start to her third round game against Schiavone and won the first set despite some poor serving. Pe'er lost two of her service games in the opening set, but retaliated with four breaks to secure the set lead. Things got tense in the second set when the Italian went ahead by a break, 2-0. Pe'er fought back to force a tiebreaker, but Schiavone handled the pressure well and came out with some blistering winners. Schiavone kept her momentum going in the third set, breaking Pe'er twice on her way to a 5-1 lead, with just a single game needed for victory. But Pe'er was not finished. The Israeli teenage sensation opted for percentage play, hit the ball deep and forced the Italian into baseline rallies. The return to the basics paid off. Pe'er won the next four games and again forced a tiebreaker. Unlike in the second set's tiebreaker, Pe'er was more focused and made the right moves to hold her serve. Schiavone had no answer for the Israeli's powerful ground strokes. Pe'er has teamed up with Marion Bartoli of France in the ladies' doubles and in their first round match defeated Spanish veteran Conchita Martinez Granados and Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela 6-1, 6-3. Pe'er and Bartoli had been slated to play Japan's Shinobu Asagoe and Akiko Morigami later Saturday night, but the rain intervened. Anna Smashnova and Alina Jidkova of Russia lost their first round match in the ladies' doubles to Americans Amy Frazier and Vania King 6-2, 6-3 on Friday.