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Shahar Peer won her first career title yesterday in Thailand, claiming the Pattaya Open with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Croatia's Jelena Kostanic. "I'm really happy," Peer told Haaretz. "I've waited a long time to win a tournament."

The 18-year-old did not drop a set all week, and after a hesitant start always held the upper hand against an opponent who failed to repeat the consistency that had taken her to the final.

Kostanic made a fine start, breaking to lead 2-0 and surviving another break point for 3-0. But in the fourth game she missed an easy overhead and Peer eventually held for 1-3 on her third game point.

After her early struggle, Peer's more aggressive game began to pay dividends as she broke Kostanic in the fifth game and never looked back.

Another break, when Kostanic sent a forehand wide, gave the fourth seed her first lead at 4-3, and after holding off a break point in the next game, she broke a third time for the set when Kostanic netted a backhand.

Kostanic responded well despite the disappointment of losing six straight games, and broke her opponent's serve to begin the second set. But she was unable to maintain her advantage, and after a short break when some light rain fell, Peer was able to level at 1-1.

Looking increasingly confident, Peer then broke again with a well-executed forehand, and a forced forehand into the net at 4-1 left her serving for victory.

"I started off badly and I was 3-0 down, but somehow I fought back and from there I was in control all the way," said the 2004 Australian Open junior champion.

Peer, who pocketed $25,000 for the win and will climb from 45 in the world to around 35, said that for the moment she was not thinking about her world ranking, but wanted to concentrate on improving her game.

"I want to enjoy matches and improve everything in my game. I want to become one of the leaders on the tour in two to three years," Peer said.