Tennis / Peer to Face Safina in Quarters

Shahar Peer barely broke a sweat yesterday in her second match of the new season and her first match in 2008.

In the second round of the tournament in Gold Coast, Australia, she faced Julia Schruff of Germany, winning the first set 6-0 before the WTA's 119th-ranked singles player announced that she was retiring from the match due to shortness of breath, handing Peer the victory after 19 minutes of action and three minutes of medical treatment.

Getting past her opponent in the quarterfinals will be a little more complicated. Dinara Safina, No. 3 in the rankings, defeated Italy's Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. When Peer faced Safina in the semifinal last year, she took a lead over the Russian, but lost in the end.

Peer also advanced to the quarterfinals in the doubles after she and Victoria Azarenka defeated Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia and Ukraine's Tatiana Perebiynis 6-2, 6-2. The Israel-Belarus duo will face China's Zi Yan and Jie Zheng in the quarterfinal.

Also yesterday, Noam Okun lost 6-4, 6-2 to Flavio Cipolla in the first round of the Challengers event in New Caledonia. Okun and his partner, Kevin Kim of the U.S., reached the quarterfinals in the doubles with a 7-6, 6-1 win over Kevin Anderson and K.J. Hippensteel.

Sharapova coming to town Shamil Tarpischev, the captain of Russia's Fed Cup team, has confirmed that Maria Sharapova will come to Israel for their World Group first-round tie early next month.

"Sharapova (No. 5 in the WTA singles rankings), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2) and Anna Chakvetadze (6) will fly to Israel," Tarpischev told a reporter for the Russian newspaper Sport. "I personally reached an agreement with Sharapova's manager regarding her trip to Israel, since the tennis player and her father do not make these decisions on their own."

Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina and Nadia Petrova will not be coming to Israel. "They need to accumulate the necessary rankings points in order to qualify for the Beijing Olympics," explained Tarpischev.

The fourth member of Russia's squad will likely be Elena Vasnina (54).

Tarpischev said he was pretty worried about the upcoming meeting with Israel. "The tie comes immediately after the Australian Open," he said. "Whoever goes farther in Melbourne will have less energy for the matches against an ambitious Israeli squad."