Peer into semifinals at ASB Classic in Auckland

Jan 7, 2010 - 8:52 AM AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) -- Israel's Shahar Peer ignored a third day of protests from pro-Palestinian demonstrators Thursday and beat Maria Kirilenko 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the semifinals of the ASB Classic.

Acting on a noise complaint from tournament organizers, police made five arrests as about 20 demonstrators chanted and blew whistles outside the downtown Auckland tennis stadium during Peer's quarterfinal match.

The New Zealand group Global Peace and Justice has timed protests to coincide with Peer's three matches at the Auckland tournament so far. One arrest was made at a particularly noisy protest Wednesday and those arrested Thursday included protest group leader John Minto.

Peer 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.

Kirilenko seemed more distracted by the noise outside the courts in the first set, but played better in the second set, gaining the only service break in the fourth game.

Peer re-established her dominance in the third set, breaking the Russian twice and clinching the victory with an ace on match point.

Her semifinal opponent Friday will be third-seeded Yanina Wickmayer, who has made a strong return to the WTA Tour after her ban for anti-doping violations was lifted last month.

Peer said she had supported Wickmayer when the Belgian was suspended for breaching the World Anti-Doping Agency's whereabouts rule.

"It was a shame she got the ban and I'm happy she could come back," Peer 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 played strongly behind a dominant serve to beat Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2.

Pennetta broke Cibulkova three times in the first set and twice in the second. However, it was her powerful serve that set up her convincing quarterfinal win.

"Today was an unbelievable match. I played incredible," Pennetta said. "When I play like this it's nice to be out there on the court and play tennis."

Pennetta's semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy, who beat Alize Cornet of France 6-2, 6-3.

Wickmayer also used a dominant serve to beat former world No. 4 Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-2. The 39-year-old Krumm, who returned to tennis in 2008 after a 12 year retirement, struggled to cope with the power of her younger opponent.

"My serve was something I really needed to improve," Wickmayer said, "and I've done a lot of work on it which showed today."

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