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Tzipi Obziler, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich got their 2006 seasons started on the right foot, while rain has given Shahar Pe'er a chance to fix a poor start to the year as the tennis season opened this weekend in Asia.
Obziler won three qualifying matches over the weekend to reach the main draw at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, for the first time in three years. The only previous time that the 32-year-old qualified at Auckland, she lost to Israeli No. 1 Anna Smashnova in the first round.
Obziler, ranked 136 in the world, was a 7-5, 6-4 winner over Bosnia's Mervana Jugic-Salkic (158) on Monday in the third and final qualifying-round match. The reigning Israeli champ will next meet American Jamea Jackson (80) in the first round on Tuesday.
Pe'er (45), who lost to Obziler for the Israeli title last month, trailed in the second set to Korean Yoon Jeong Cho (75) when weather caused the cancellation of play later Monday. Pe'er advanced through the qualifying to reach the quarterfinals at the event last year. Now the teenager will try to overcome a 7-6(0), 2-0 deficit as she attempts to match last year's success.
Doubles stars Ram and Erlich cruised through their opener against James Blake and Stephen Huss at the Adelaide International in Australia. The second seeded Israelis, who finished 2005 as the eighth-ranked duo in the world, won 6-3, 7-5 against the Australian Huss, the defending Wimbledon champ (with Weslie Moodie), and Blake, who's ranked 23 in singles.
They will now have at least two days off before their quarterfinals match, in which the Israelis will face the winner of the encounter between Argentinians Juan Ignacio Chela and Agustin Calleri and Australians Chris Guccione and Nathan Healey.
Singles players Noam Okun (195) and Harel Levy (211) came up short in their bids to qualify at Adelaide. Okun lost to Gregory Carraz (167) of France 6-2, 6-2 in the third and final qualifying round, while Levy fell to Alun Jones (243) of Australia 6-2, 6-4 in the second round.
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