By ALLON SINAI
Dudi Sela and Shahar Pe'er both succumbed in their respective semifinals over the weekend, but will still be encouraged by their performances in the first week of the season.
Sela, playing in the semifinal of an ATP Tour tournament for just the third time in his career, gave world No. 21 Stanislas Wawrinka a run for his money before losing 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 in the last four of the Chennai Open in India.
After dropping his serve in the 10th game to lose the first set, Sela (43) stormed back to take the second and remained in touch with Wawrinka throughout the third. However, the 24-year-old Israeli was broken in the 12th game of the third set and just missed out on advancing to a second career final.
Pe'er (30) could not push Yanina Wickmayer (16) as close, losing 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals of the Auckland Classic in New Zealand on Friday.
Wickmayer lifted the title on Saturday, beating Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-2 to win her first tournament since the overturning of a one-year ban for anti-doping violations.
Pe'er faced protests from a small group opposed to Israel's policies towards Palestinians throughout the week, but remained positive nevertheless.
"I have said I really enjoy playing here," Pe'er told reporters. "It's a nice tournament.
"The crowd is very nice. (Tournament director) Brenda (Perry) takes very good (care) of us and I enjoy it. This is the fourth time I have been here so I really like it."
On Friday, the organizers played music throughout the breaks between games, drowning out the protesters' chants.
"It was not loud enough for me to play good. The other days were very loud and I won those matches," Pe'er jokingly said. "For the whole week, again and again and again, I've been asked about it and hearing them calling me to go out of the tournament, it's not a nice feeling and not comfortable.
"I'm only 22 and to get those calls against me is not nice... but I am really proud of the way I handled it.
"Unfortunately I don't only have to deal with the players but I also have to deal with politics stuff as well. If it is because of where I come from, that's not fair. I have nothing to do with politics. I am just a tennis player and I want to enjoy the tour like the other players."
Pe'er will play in Hobart, Australia next week and will face local wild-card Olivia Rogowska (145) in the first round.
Sela will also be in Australia next week, playing in Sydney. Sela faces Julien Benneteau (46) in a tough first round match and will play Wawrinka for the second time in a week in the next round should he advance.
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