Tennis: Friends become semifinal opponents

Israeli Shahar Peer will face her good friend Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer in tommorow's ASB Classic semifinal. Photo / Getty Images
Israeli Shahar Peer will face her good friend Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer in tommorow's ASB Classic semifinal. Photo / Getty Images

Mutual supporters over off-court issues, Belgian Yanina Wickmayer and Israel's Shahar Peer will be opponents in Auckland tomorrow as the ASB Classic tennis tournament reaches the semifinal stages.

Third seed Wickmayer took just under an hour to complete a comfortable

6-2 6-2 victory over Japanese wildcard Kimiko Date Krumm today.

Peer took three-quarters of an hour longer to subdue Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-0 3-6 6-1.

Afterwards, she said Wickmayer, 20, had been among those to ask her how she was coping with being the target of anti-Israel protests outside the stadium this week.

Peer, 22, had done a similar thing in November, when Wickmayer, whom she was described as a good friend, was handed a one-year ban by the Flemish anti-doping tribunal.

The ban, for failing to follow drug-testing procedures in relation to the ``whereabouts' rule, was lifted by a Belgian court last month pending further appeal and is the reason Wickmayer is a wildcard entry.

``I think it was a shame she got the ban and I'm happy she could come back,' Peer said.

``I sent her an email 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.'

The pair have met once before, at the Estoril Open in Portugal last May, but Peer retired during the first set of that semifinal clash with a foot injury.

Wickmayer went on to claim her first WTA Tour title.

World No 30 Peer's victory over Kirilenko was a topsy-turvy affair, with errors proving the Russian's downfall.

After an opening set that lasted just 23 minutes, the 62nd ranked Kirilenko lifted her game in the second while Peer's service suffered a wobble.

The opening two games of the final set proved the key period of the match.

Peer found herself down 0-40 on serve, but managed to hold, and then consolidated by breaking her opponent in the next game.

She said she had got a little defensive in the second set, failing to capitalise on opportunities and allowing Kirilenko to level.

``I didn't start the third set well and was still making a little too many mistakes, but I then got in my groove,' she said.

``I was serving better and being more aggressive and coming into the court.'

In the top half of the draw, No 1 seed Flavia Pennetta maintained her record of not having dropped her serve this week as she eased past Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova.

The Italian, the world No 12, won a one-sided match encounter with the 28th ranked Cibulkova 6-1 6-2.

She was delighted with how the match unfolded, describing it as ``unbelievable'.

``I didn't make many mistakes at all and I was very aggressive,' she said.

``She's always tough to play because she makes you play so many balls and it's not easy to make a winner. Today, everything was perfect.'

Pennetta has barely been pushed in her three singles outings so far, conceding just 13 games.

She will now face the winner of tonight's clash between compatriot and No 4 seed Francesca Schiavone and unseeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.

- NZPA

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