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Peer progresses amid further protests

    Shahar Peer (30) reached the quarter-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova (44).

    Amid highly embarrassing scenes for the tournament organisers, the match was marred by loud protests from pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside the Auckland Tennis Centre.

    One man was arrested for breaching the peace as he continually banged a drum, while play was stopped for 20 minutes at the end of the first set and only continued after the 22-year-old Israeli persuaded officials not to postpone the match.

    Peer angrily told officials "If we don't finish this match now - when will we play it - next week?"

    She said: "The protestors seem to know exactly where to stand to make the most noise. It makes me all the more determined to win. It's a disgrace that year after year the demonstrators target me. I'm a tennis player not a politician."

    Peer also reached the quarter finals in Auckland last year when she was the subject of fierce demonstrations during the height of the Gaza War.

    In the first round this year Peer beat Slovenia's Polona Hercog (68) 7-5, 6-3 in a match that was also marred by protests and held up due to a bomb scare. In the quarter final Peer is due to play Maria Kirilenko (62) of Russia.

    Meanwhile, the WTA has reportedly received written confirmation from the UAE authorities that Peer will be given a visa for next month's Dubai tournament.

    Last year Peer was barred from the tournament because the UAE refused to issue her a visa and the WTA said that the tournament would not be allowed to go ahead this year without the Israeli.

    With the Australian Open approaching, Israel's two leading male players are also in fine form, bouncing back from a bout of swine flu in November. Fifth seed Dudi Sela (43) beat Denis Istomin (102) of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-2 in the Chennai Open in India.

    In Brisbane, Harel Levy (119) brushed aside France's Michael Llodra (67) to record his first victory in an ATP tournament since 2004. However, Levy succumbed to the eight seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 4-6, 6-4, 4-6 in the second round.

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