Peer's Prague Sweep
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - After going down a set to Australia's Samantha Stosur in her first clay court final, things weren't looking too encouraging for Shahar Peer. But the Israeli teenager found another gear while staring down defeat, dominating play in the second and third sets and eventually capturing her second career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title at the ECM Prague Open 2006 by Ceska sporitelna with a hard-fought 46 62 61 championship victory.
The No.3-seeded Peer, left as the tournament favorite early on in the week after top two seeds Marion Bartoli and Lucie Safarova were both eliminated in their respective opening rounds, had never before advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a Tour clay court event. But she capitalized on her first championship opportunity on the dirt with the three set win over Stosur, the No.5 seed this week, who was also featuring in her career-first clay court final.
"It is my second final and second title, it was great week and I'm happy for that," said Peer, who won her first Tour singles title earlier this season at another Tier IV event, on the hard courts of Pattaya City. "In the second set I started to play more agressive, tried to win the first few points and not to let her move me around. My brother and sister are here, also my coach, so I'm really happy."
"I started really well the first set, but she definitely picked up her game, made me run, played to my backhand and started to be very agressive afterwards," said Stosur, who was appearing in her third Tour singles final, having recorded back-to-back runner-up finishes last January at Gold Coast and Sydney. "But I'm very pleased with the whole week, it's a lovely tournament and Prague is beautiful, I really love the city and hope to come back.
Peer and Stosur were playing for the second time, with the Israeli teen also winning 61 63 on the green clay courts of Amelia Island last spring. Ranked outside the Top 100 at the time, Peer went on to lose in the next round of that tournament to Anastasia Myskina in three sets. Stosur, who is currently the world's No.1 doubles player (but not entered this past week in Prague), went on to win the doubles title with compatriot Bryanne Stewart.
In the rain-delayed doubles final, the No.2-seeded tandem of Peer and Bartoli beat unseeded Americans Ashley Harkleroad and Bethanie Mattek, 64 64. It was the first career Tour doubles title for Peer and the third for Bartoli.
There were several notable results earlier in the week at Prague, the most prominent of which being the return to the Czech Republic for tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who hadn't played professionally in her original home land for 20 years until this week. Partnering with young Czech player Barbora Strycova, she lost early on in the doubles draw to Harkleroad and Mattek. Also of note were the early singles departures of Bartoli and Safarova, the Frenchwoman falling to Kaia Kanepi (who would go on to reach the semis) and the Czech losing to Slovak wild card Magdalena Rybarikova, who reached the quarters in her first Tour singles main draw.
Peer stole the show in Prague, however. The 19-year-old Israeli became just the second player this year to sweep singles and doubles titles at the same Tour event, after Anna-Lena Groenefeld achieved the same feat at Acapulco.
Queen of Asia.