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Peer shrugs off protests, targets return to NZ

Last Updated: Friday, January 8, 2010 - 12:52

Auckland: Israel`s Shahar Peer is refusing to be downcast after being subjected to a week of protests at the Auckland Classic and hopes to return to New Zealand in the future.

The 22-year-old faced chants from a small group opposed to Israel`s policies towards Palestinians, urging her to withdraw from the tournament at the central city Auckland Tennis Centre.

On Friday, a group of about 25 people made their presence felt with megaphones from a public park nearby before police arrested two and ended the protest.

"I have said I really enjoy playing here," Peer told reporters after she was beaten 6-4, 7-5 in the semi-finals by Belgian third seed Yanina Wickmayer. "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."
Peer admitted the protests had actually helped inspire her run to the semi-finals, as her first two matches were on outside courts and close to the perimeter fence.

The chants were so loud during her second round match against Magdalena Rybarikova, officials delayed it for 15 minutes after the first set as they discussed whether or not to continue.

The Israeli, however, said the fact she could not quite hear the protestors on centre court on Friday -- organisers played music throughout the breaks between games -- may have contributed to her loss.

"It was not loud enough for me to play good. The other days were very loud and I won those matches," she said with a wry smile.

Peer, however, said it had been an unpleasant experience though she was proud of the way she had dealt with it.

"For the whole week, again and again and again, and 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."

Peer, who was refused a visa to play in Dubai last year, said she had received one for next month`s tournament and hoped that she would now be treated purely as a player. "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."

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, January 8, 2010 - 12:52
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