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Serena survives pesky Peer

3/28/2005

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Struggling to finish off a stubborn
opponent, Serena Williams hit a tentative volley that clipped the
net cord and dribbled to the other side for a winner.
Tennis protocol required a wave of apology to acknowledge the
lucky shot, but instead Williams flexed a fist and screamed at
17-year-old qualifier Shahar Peer.
"She was like very happy when she won some points," Peer said.
They didn't come easily. Three-time defending champion Williams
needed 90 minutes to eliminate the scrappy Israeli 6-3, 6-3 in the
third round of the Nasdaq-100 Open.
Of the 20 consecutive matches Williams has won at Key Biscayne,
the latest ranked among the most grueling. Peer kept chasing down
her shots, much to the delight of the stadium crowd.
"She was really gutsy," Williams said. "I wasn't used to
playing a person like that. It was a totally different game for me.
She gets a lot of balls back, and she doesn't hit with a lot of
pace."
The pesky Peer is part of the newest generation poised to make
an impact on the WTA Tour. Along with Grand Slam champions Maria
Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, there's Tatiana
Golovin of France, Vera Douchevina of Russia, Nicole Vaidisova of
the Czech Republic and Anna Tatishvili of Georgia.
Each is a teenager. Why is none from the United States?
"Everyone is interested in becoming a pop star, 'American
Idol,' becoming another Beyonce and stuff," Williams said. "Maybe
I got to up my image -- they'll want to become tennis players
like me."
On another humid day, with temperatures reaching 87 degrees, the
other top women moved quickly into the fourth round. Top-seeded
Amelie Mauresmo, No. 2 Maria Sharapova, No. 8 Venus Williams, Kim
Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne won in straight sets.
No. 19 seed Henin-Hardenne, playing in her first
tournament since the U.S. Open, needed just 58 minutes to beat
Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-3, 6-2. Henin-Hardenne, a three-time Grand
Slam champion, had been sidelined by a virus and knee injury.
Mauresmo defeated Anna Smashnova 6-2, 6-1, and Sharapova beat
Marissa Irvin 6-2, 6-0. Three-time Key Biscayne champion Venus
Williams beat Fabiola Zuluaga 6-2, 6-0, and Clijsters won her 10th
match in a row, sweeping No. 12 Nathalie Dechy 6-0, 6-2.
Kuznetsova, No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 5 Anastasia Myskina --
all Russian -- advanced in straight sets. No. 11 Patty Schnyder lost
to qualifier Catalina Castano 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.