Peer Pulls Through to Next Stage

BEIJING - Dozens of Israelis cheered Shahar Peer yesterday when she beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 5-7, 6-0 in the first round of the women's singles tennis tournament at the Beijing Olympics.

Peer was good in the first set and then took a nose dive in the second, when her opponent went up 5-0. However, Peer fought back and tied the match at 5-5 only to lose in the tiebreaker. By the third set her opponent could no longer hold out against Peer's power and buckled 6-0.

"She was hitting winners, won the second set and I asked to take a break to change shirts," Peer later said. "I was sweating profusely but I knew I could take her."

Peer commented on the career slump she has set into in the past few months: "I'm not in the best of times, but I'm feeling more energetic at the Olympics then at a grand slam. Also, there were lots of Israeli who supported me."

Meanwhile, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich were spared from dooming defeat to their old French foes Arnaud Clement and Llorda Michael when it began to rain, causing their match to be postponed after they lost the first set 6-4 and were 5-4 behind in the second. The Frenchmen are out to avenge their loss to the Israelis in the finals of the Australian Open doubles tournament earlier this year.

Tzipi Obziler was also saved from defeat in her first set by the rain. Obziler was down 5-3 against Ukraine's Mariya Koryssteva when the game was postponed.

Sailors off course

"Sailing must bring us a medal," declared a high-ranking Israeli Olympic committee official before the Games began. But of the five Israeli teams that began yesterday, only Shahar Zubari was impressive.

The Eilat native finished ahead of the pack, claiming first place after the first and second legs of the windsurfing competition. While Zubari was a pleasant surprise, Gideon Kliger and Udi Gal were disappointing with a rather hesitant performance at the 470 sailing style competition. They finished in 16th place, and know that if they have even one additional bad leg it may end their chances to win a medal.

Hatuel bows out

"I had a momentary lapse of concentration, it had nothing to do with my injury," Delila Hatuel said yesterday of her loss to Russian fencer Victoria Nikichina. The Israeli foil fencer lost her first duel in a tight encounter that ended 10:9.

Despite her denial, it seems that Hatuel's knee injury was agonizing: Seconds into the duel she called for medical assistance after making a sharp move.

"I needed to recover, and after four minutes carried on as usual," she said later.

The duel was very close, yet the Russian was ahead for the majority of the encounter. Hatuel managed to tie her rival with 30 seconds to go. At the end of regulation they remained tied, and the duel was claimed in overtime by the Russian.

Immediately after the match, the usually high-spirited Hatuel cried on her sister's shoulder. Her team said they were proud of her, and that she fought like a "lioness."

"I beat her twice in the past but today it was her turn," Hatuel said. "I was pleased with my performance. Now I'll rest and undergo another surgery on my knee. I want to be in the 2012 Olympics Games in London ."