Shahar Pe'er hounded by anti-Israel protests

Tennis Peer hounded by

Shahar Pe'er began 2010 with a solid victory on Tuesday, despite once more having to get the better of anti-Israeli protesters as well as her opponent. A small group of people carried placards and chanted against Israel's treatment of Palestinians outside the Auckland Tennis Centre in New Zealand before Pe'er took to court four and defeated Slovenia's Polona Hercog 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the ASB Classic. "As you can see, I've come back again. I really like this tournament," Pe'er told reporters. "It's a shame that somebody thinks it's my fault that there are problems in the world. "For me, the most important thing was that even though I was hearing those things, which were not nice, I still won." Pe'er, ranked number 30 in the world, faces Magdalena Rybarikova (44) in the second round on Wednesday. The New Zealand protest group Global Peace and Justice earlier Tuesday said it had written to Pe'er, asking her to withdraw from the tournament "as a demonstration of your commitment to peace." Global Peace and Justice also wrote to Pe'er last year and protested her presence at the 2009 tournament, but advertised protests drew only about 20 demonstrators. The letter, sent to Peer on Tuesday, said her withdrawal from ASB Classic, a WTA Tour event, would be a "significant sacrifice." Global Peace and Justice said sporting boycotts were "more visible than a trade or investment boycott and can have an important psychological impact. We saw this with the successful sports boycotts against apartheid [in] South Africa." The stadium where the tournament is being played was briefly evacuated Tuesday after an unattended bag was found. The discovery of the bag coincided with the protest against the presence of Pe'er, but organizers said the events were apparently unconnected. Players and spectators were forced to leave the tennis complex and streets around the central Auckland stadium were sealed off while emergency services dealt with the incident. The evacuation occurred shortly before the scheduled start of play. Also Tuesday, Dudi Sela (43) cruised into the second round of the Chennai Open, defeating Dennis Istomin (102) 6-1, 6-2. Next up for Sela is American Kevin Kim (117). Meanwhile, in Brisbane, Kim Clijsters' career comeback continued to gather momentum Tuesday with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Australia's Alicia Molik. Top-seeded Clijsters won the first eight games in the second-round match until Molik held serve. Clijsters won the US Open last September in only her third tournament back from more than two years in retirement, becoming the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980. Clijsters' title inspired a comeback by fellow Belgian and former No. 1-ranked Justine Henin, who won her first tour match since May 2008 on Monday against second-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia. Having Clijsters and Henin on the opposite ends of the draw sets up the possibility of an all-Belgian final leading up to the Australian Open, which starts January 18. Federer, Nadal through in Qatar Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal breezed through to the second round of the Qatar Open with straight-sets wins on Tuesday. Playing with his trademark elegance, Federer, the world's top-ranked player, crushed Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-1, 6-2 while Nadal, ranked No.2, beat Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-3, 6-3. With no sign of a back problem that plagued him at the start of last season, Federer launched his 2010 campaign by breaking Rochus in games four and six - the Belgian guilty of three unforced errors in each game - to take the first set. He then broke Rochus in games one and seven of the second set to seal the victory. Federer fired 12 aces in a match he completely dominated, firing 47 winners against his Belgian opponent. He next plays Russia's Evgeny Korolev on Wednesday. "I got good practice in Abu Dhabi and I was able to create points," Federer said. "It was good to get on a roll. My movement was explosive. I am happy how I played." Nadal also recorded an easy win to set up a second round clash with Potito Starace of Italy. "I tried my best there. I gave 100 percent in the match. I got good practice in Abu Dhabi and that gave me good rhythm for this match," Nadal said. "Bolelli plays good shots so this was a tough match."