Resurgent Peer aims for top 20

By Simon Griver, January 14, 2010

Shahar Peer sees the Australian Open as a stepping stone in her determined climb back to the top.

Ranked 30 in the world, Peer, 22, will be seeded in the Melbourne tournament which starts on Monday. This should prevent a repeat of last year’s first-round exit when unseeded, she was drawn against 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki.

“My target is to get back into the top 20 and a good run in Melbourne will help me do that,” said Peer. “I feel I am playing my best tennis ever at the moment.”

The Israeli has started 2010 in fine form, reaching the semi-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland where she had to overcome vociferous pro-Palestinian protestors as well as her opponents before losing to the Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in a close fought contest.

She was seeded No. 2 for this week’s Hobart International where she defeated Jelena Dokic 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.

Dudi Sela will be under more pressure than Peer having reached the third round of the grand slam last year. Sela, 24, got his season off to a flying start last week when he reached the semi-finals of the Chennai Open in India before losing to the world’s number 21 Stanislas Wawrinka. He was unable to maintain his momentum this week, crashing out in the first round of the Sydney International.

Ranked 40, Sela’s new coach, Amos Mansdorf, is targeting passing Mansdorf’s best-ever ranking of 19 in the late 1980s. Sela’s career high ranking of 29 was achieved after reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon last summer.

Harel Levy (118) was a surprise casualty when he crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open qualifiers despite being the sixth seed in the competition. Noam Okun (259) won through to the second round.

In the mens doubles, 2008 champions Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich will be playing with different partners. Ram will play the entire 2010 season with the Frenchman Michael Llodra. They reached the last eight of the Brisbane International but were dumped out in the first round in Sydney this week. Erlich, who after being out injured for nearly a year no longer qualifies to play in the major tournaments, has been given a wild card entry as a former champion and will team up with Frenchman Arnaud Clement if he recovers from back pains.

With mixed doubles confirmed to take place at the 2012 London Olympics, Melbourne could provide a first opportunity for Ram and Peer to team up in their quest to win a medal in 2012.

Last updated: 4:13pm, January 14 2010