Peer revisits site of heroics

Updated: 15 February 2011 20:31 IST

Shahar Peer, the first female Israeli athlete ever to compete in the United Arab Emirates, returned to the scene of her greatest triumph with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the first round of the Dubai Open.

Peer revisits site of heroics

Dubai:

Shahar Peer, the first female Israeli athlete ever to compete in the United Arab Emirates, returned to the scene of her greatest triumph with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the first round of the Dubai Open.

It was no surprise that Peer should despatch the world number 28 from Spain so rapidly, as it was here last year that she played like a woman inspired as she upset the top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and the leading Chinese player Li Na en route to the semi-finals.

The Israeli also had to be heavily guarded wherever she went, to be kept on an outside court no matter how great her successes, and to be placed in a separate outhouse whilst on site.

It was a highly pressured situation which she transcended brilliantly to produce the best tennis of her life, a feat which gained her worldwide publicity.

The outward ingredients are the same this year, though the sense of danger seems a little less and Peer's inner state appears more relaxed.

She certainly played with characteristic mobility and focus, however, and when selected media were led discreetly to her secret shelter she talked a typically buoyant match as well.

"Obviously I played good here last year, so always when you go back to a tournament that you played good, you want to repeat it. You feel very comfortable in that place," she said.

"But I don't know if I'm going to go that deep (through the draw). Maybe I'm going to go deeper, which I wish I would. But I think today I was a bit nervous at the beginning, and I need to get match by match and try my best."

She also had a message of friendship for people in the Middle East nations. Asked if politics and sport should be connected, she said she thought they should.

"Like I said, they respect me coming here (Dubai) and really appreciate my coming," she said. "These countries here, we also are the same and we all feel, like I say, human beings.

"I can visit anywhere I want, and I am very...," and she paused to check the correct words with an interpreter, "welcome in those countries."

What was conspicuous about Peer's efforts last year was how a former Israeli soldier could make friends across the fiercest religious and political divides in the world. This at least seems certain to repeat itself.

"It's the same people around me, like the really nice people around me taking good care of me. It feels like kind of home, so you can get the same inspiration because you feel very comfortable," she said.

"I feel great here. So I'll try to be here as long as possible."

To achieve that Peer will next try to get past Alexandra Dulgheru, the rising world number 29 from Romania. If she succeeds in that, she should have another meeting with Li Na -- though the Chinese player is likely to be a fitter and tougher proposition than last time.

Topics : Tennis Vera Zvonareva Anna Chakvetadze Daniela Hantuchova Caroline Wozniacki Shahar Peer Kateryna Bondarenko
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