Shahar Peer self-destructed in the third round of the Australian Open, going down 4-6, 0-6 against world No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki.
There were few Israelis and fewer Israeli flags – and no Palestinian protesters – among the 10,000-plus fans at Rod Laver Arena, but Peer, 22, seemed unfazed, breaking the Danish starlet to lead 2-0 and 4-3 in the first set.
She outgunned her younger opponent early on, showcasing an array of forehand and backhand winners, lobs and drop shots that suggested she had the ticker and the talent to conquer Wozniacki.
Then she imploded, and lost the next nine consecutive games, crashing out with a whimper after beginning with a bang.
Not even saving two match points could salvage the surrender by the world cruising through on the third attempt after 80 minutes on centre court.
Peer, ranked 29 in the opening Grand Slam tournament of the year, could not hide her frustration. “I’m disappointed to lose at all,” she said. “I think I was the one player who did everything – the mistakes and the dominating. In the first set I had many chances and I didn’t take them. This was the difference.”
In fact she had six break points, only managing to convert once, when she broke Wozniacki in the second game.
By contrast Wozniacki, who looked undercooked at the outset, raised her game, converting 100 per cent of her three break points and made half the unforced errors – eight against 16 for Peer.
When Peer sprayed a ball long and wide to hand Wozniacki a 1-0 lead in the second set, it was clear which way the wind as blowing.
The runner-up of the 2009 US Open managed to land more than 75 per cent of her first serves as she continued her 100 per cent record in three WTA meetings against her friend and former doubles partner.
“She started really well – she was changing the rhythm and it was difficult for me just to get into the match,” Wozniacki said. “I just kept fighting, hanging in there, and in the end it turned out that I just had an extra gear.”
But Peer, who made the semi-finals in Auckland and the final in Hobart earlier this month, was upbeat about the future.
“I have a lot of wins behind me and if I keep playing in this direction and improve just a bit more, I think I can finish the year very strongly.”
Of Wozniacki, she said: “She’s No 4 in the world so you cannot take it [away] from her.”
Peer now heads back home to Israel before playing in Dubai, where last year – shortly after Israel’s invasion of Gaza – she was controversially denied a visa, sparking a furore.
In the doubles tournament, Peer, who was runner-up in Melbourne in 2008, and her new partner, Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva, were defeated 7-6, 6-4 in the second round by Spanish No 3 seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Dudi Sela, who bowed out in the first round of the singles tournament, was also bundled out of the men’s doubles on Friday with his partner, Russia’s Igor Kunitsyn.
They were defeated by No 5. seeds Lukasz Kubot from Poland and Oliver Marach from Austria, 6-3, 6-2.
Andy Ram, who crashed out of the men’s doubles in the first round, stayed alive in the mixed doubles on Friday with his partner, Russian Elena Vesnina, 6-3, 6-2.
Ram’s former doubles partner Yoni Erlich and his new partner, France’s Arnaud Clement, won through to the third round of the men’s doubles on Saturday, defeating Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Germany’s Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 7-5.