Israel's leading tennis players both got the boot from the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam tournament, in the first today. First, 39th-ranked Jarkko Nieminen of Finland rallied past Dudi Sela in five sets, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3. Later, Romanian Monica Niculescu, the world No. 64, ousted Shahar Peer in straight sets 6-4, 6-1, ranked 75th.
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Sela and Peer's fortunes have gone in different directions over the past year, and indeed the played at different levels today but ultimately suffered the same fate.
Sela, ranked 67th and playing his best tennis since 2012 was looking for an upset after winning the tiebreak of the third set to go up 2-1. However, Nieminen recovered his poise to prevail in the final two sets. It took the Finn three hours and 38 minutes to earn a spot in the second round.
Peer, in contrast, never seriously challenged Niculescu, who knows the Israeli well from their former experience as doubles partners. Sloppy play was the Israel's undoing. While Peer had more winners (23-10), she committed 38 unforced errors to Niculescu's 13.