Tennis News

Safina wilts under Peer pressure

LONDON (Reuters) - Ninth seed Dinara Safina missed setting up a rematch with fellow Russian Elena Dementieva when she was harried out of Wimbledon in the third round, beaten 7-5 6-7 8-6 by Israel’s Shahar Peer on Saturday.

Dinara Safina of Russia reacts during her match against Shahar Peer of Israel at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London June 28, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

The French Open finalist, who had come within a point of defeat in successive matches at Roland Garros earlier this month, raised hopes of staging another great escape on Saturday.

In a topsy-turvy contest featuring angry outbursts, medical timeouts and code violations, Safina saved match points -- at 4-5 down in the second set and 5-6 down in the decider.

Hobbling around with a painful thigh, Safina eventually limped out on Peer’s fourth match point, falling after three hours and 25 minutes with a tame double fault.

Dementieva, though, would have let out a huge sigh of relief at being spared another encounter with Safina.

The last time they met, in the French Open quarter-finals, Dementieva came within a point of defeating Safina but ended up as the loser.

In a scene that was all too familiar for Safina fans, the Russian trailed 5-7 2-4 before she began her fightback.

She levelled for 4-4 after punishing Peer with a string of brutal forehands but two games later she was tottering on the brink of elimination.

She tipped a backhand beyond the baseline to gift her opponent a match point but Peer lacked the self-belief to finish it off and hit a backhand into the net.

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Energised by her stroke of luck, Safina immediately drew Peer into a furious 32-shot rally and ended it by smashing away an overhead.

After levelling for 5-5, she compounded the Israeli’s frustrations by streaking through the tiebreak 7-4.

With the momentum clearly behind her, Safina grabbed an early break in the decider.

But the exertions on a hot court 11 started to catch up with her and she took an injury time out while leading 4-3. The trainer rubbed down her right thigh and also applied an ice pack to the stricken area.

But it failed to cool down the hot-headed Russian and she exploded in the ninth game when Peer was serving to stay in the match.

Believing a Peer shot had wrongly been called in, she raged at the umpire “Are you blind completely?

“It was this long,” she added, indicating with her hands a metre apart.

At 5-4 up, she served for the match but was broken easily.

Two games later, she was slapped with a code violation for taking too long between points. Standing behind the baseline, she glared at the umpire, continued to bounce the ball for what seemed an eternity before finally launching into her serve.

She went on to save a second match point against her in the same game but, grimacing around court in obvious pain, she could not stave off the inevitable and wilted in the closing stages. The win allowed Peer to reach the last 16 for the first time.

Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Lovell