Tennis: Pe'er ignores anti-Israel protests, advances to ASB semis

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Five more protesters were arrested outside the Auckland tennis stadium on Thursday, but Shahar Pe'er shrugged off a third day of pro-Palestinian demonstrators to beat Maria Kirilenko 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 and reach the semifinals of the ASB tennis Classic. Police, acting on a noise complaint from tournament organizers, made five arrests as about 20 demonstrators chanted and blew whistles outside the stadium during Pe'er's quarterfinal match. The New Zealand group Global Peace and Justice has timed protests to coincide with Pe'er's three matches at the Auckland tournament so far. One arrest was made at a particularly noisy demonstration Wednesday and those arrested Thursday included protest group leader John Minto. Pe'er, ranked number 30 in the world, once again seemed unaffected by the protests: she rushed through the first set in only 23 minutes with service breaks in the first, third and fifth games. Russia's Kirilenko ( 62) seemed more distracted than Pe'er by the noise outside the courts in the first set, but played with more application in the second set, gaining the only service break in the fourth game. Pe'er re-established her dominance in the third set, breaking Kirilenko twice and clinching victory with an ace on match point. Her semifinal opponent Friday will be third-seeded Yanina Wickmayer (16) who has made a strong return to the WTA Tour after her ban for anti-doping violations was lifted last month. Pe'er said she had supported Wickmayer when the Belgian was suspended for breaching the World AntiDoping Agency's whereabouts rule. "I think it was a shame she got the ban and I'm happy she could come back," Pe'er said. "I sent her an e-mail to support her and I said I hoped she was fine. I think they went too far with the penalty, which she did not deserve." Top-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy will face countrywomen Francesca Schiavone in the other semifinal. Meanwhile, Dudi Sela (43) advanced to his first ATP Tour quarterfinal since July on Thursday, progressing to the last eight of the Chennai Open in India with a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory over American Kevin Kim (117). Sela will face Slovakian Lukas Lacko (82) in the quarterfinals on Friday, looking to reach the semifinals of a tour event for just the third time in his career. Also Thursday, Andy Ram and Max Mirnyi were knocked out in the quarterfinals of the Brisbane International, losing 5-7, 6-2, 10-8 to Jurgen Melzer and Phillip Petzschner. Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin overcame lapses to win their quarterfinal matches in Brisbane on Thursday, raising the prospect of an allBelgian final between two players making comebacks. Clijsters, five tournaments into a return from retirement that has already netted a US Open title, needed four match points to beat Lucie Safarova 6-1, 0-6, 6-4. It took Henin 24 minutes between her first match point and her sixth before she finally put away seventhseeded Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5). Clijsters' semifinal opponent will be Germany's Andrea Petkovic, who upset fourth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-2. Roger Federer overcame Ernests Gulbis' strong serve to reach the Qatar Open semifinals Thursday with a 62, 4-6, 6-4 victory. Rafael Nadal reached the semifinals after Belgian opponent Steve Darcis retired.