Shahar Peer in action on Jan. 21, 2008, when she was part of a doubles team that advanced to the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Israeli tennis stars Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich didn’t bring their Melbourne magic to Beijing. In fact, the Olympics have turned out to be a major disappointment on the courts for the entire Israeli tennis contingent, which had high expectations for China.
Ram and Erlich, strong contenders for a medal, had fired up Israel in January by winning the Australian Open men’s doubles in January – the Jewish state’s first Grand Slam title. No doubt the veteran French tandem they defeated that day in a tough two-setter recalled that loss this week, when they exacted revenge Tuesday in the first round of the Olympics. Unseeded Arnaud Clement and Llodra Michael knocked off the third-seeded Israelis, 6-4, 6-4.
On the women’s side, 24th-seeded Shahar Peer may have been thinking medal, too, especially with such highly ranked players as Maria Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport sidelined by injuries. Peer, 21, who gained much attention playing in the Qatar Open in February, won her first-round match Monday before falling in the second round the next day.
She did go down fighting: It took Russia’s Vera Zvonareva one hour, 11 minutes to win the second set, 7-6, after taking the opener, 6-3.
So, too, did Israel’s other women’s singles performer, Tzipora Obziler. She dropped a grueling three-hour affair to Mariya Koryttseva of Ukraine, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, on Tuesday. The deciding set lasted one hour, 6 minutes. That same evening, Obziler and Peer fell in straight sets in their doubles match.
Peer, who last year became the first Israeli woman to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals, should be back for another shot in 2012 in London. But Ram and Erlich may not return, as both will be in their 30s for the next Summer Games.