Tennis / Bittersweet First Day for Israelis Down Under

Peer advances while Sela falls to ex-U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro.

Israel's Shahar Peer, the 12th ranked player in the world, breezed through the first round of the Australian Open yesterday, easily defeating Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson 6-1, 6-1.

Peer, who is seeded 10th in the tournament, encountered early difficulties in the match, but she quickly recovered to earn a berth in the second round, where she will face Romania's Sorana Cirstea.

Cirstea also had little trouble in her first round draw, disposing of Croatia's Mirjana Lucic in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.

On the men's side, Israel's top player, Dudi Sela, was valiant in his straight-sets defeat to former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentine was forced to work hard before finally putting away Sela 7-6 (13-11 ), 6-4, 6-4.

"I feel good," he said. "It's nice for me be here with these players, this tournament, and of course playing a Grand Slam. Today I play good tennis again. But I'm really enjoying this week. I met with all the players, especially the top 10 players. They support me when I was very bad. So now I face to face with them and I say thank you."

Del Potro returned to Melbourne after a lengthy absence due to wrist surgery. He is quickly emerging as a dark horse in the tournament that could spoil the fun for heavyweights Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. The Argentine said that despite the expectations, he has still not returned to the form that enabled him to capture the 2009 U.S. Open crown in Flushing Meadows.