Protests against an Israeli tennis player at the ASB Classic are
heating up with one man arrested for breaching the peace.
He was with a group of campaigners calling for Shahar Peer to withdraw from the tournament.
The protesters, led by John Minto, holding placards over the Gaza conflict and calling for a Free Palestine, say they will continue targeting Peer's games as long as she plays in the tournament.
"We're asking her to again withdraw from this tournament," says Minto.
"Yes, she is a professional tennis player but she's served in the Israeli army, she defends the policies of Israel."
The group protested when the 21-year-old professional tennis player played in Auckland last year and say they are stepping up that campaign yet again.
"After the protest last year, she was banned from the women's tournament in Dubai," Minto says.
"The best way to bring pressure on that country is a comprehensive boycott on sport, investment and trade. Now that's only happened once in the past and that was South Africa."
ASB Classic disrupted
The noise made by the protesters was loud enough to stop the second round match between Peer and her Slovakian opponent after the conclusion of the first set, won 6-1 by Peer.
World Tennis Association officials and tournament director Brenda Perry then discussed what should be done about the noise, which could be heard clearly by players and spectators throughout the entire complex.
The debate ensued for over 15 minutes before it was decided the second round match should proceed.
When the officials initially entered the court, Peer was clearly upset.
The 22-year-old walked towards the grandstand shouting at her coach: "They want to stop the match; they want to stop the match."
The mid-court conference continued and for a while the protesters, who were camped just outside the domain boundary of the ASB Classic, went quiet which seems to indicate they had somebody inside the complex communicating with them.
Arguments continued between Peer, who clearly wanted to continue playing, and the tournament's officials.
Peer's coach then left the grandstand to join the melee, telling the officials: "If we don't finish this match now - when will we play it - next week?"
The Israeli's opponent Rybarikova remained in her chair and seemed unwilling to continue the match.
After some more debate, it was decided that the match should continue much to the obvious disgust of the Slovakian.
She lost her next service game to love and was clearly out of sorts, eventually losing the second set 6-0 and the match.
Protests not successful
After the game, Peer said the protesters have not succeeded in putting a dent in her game; in fact it's just the opposite, she says.
But she did think the protesters may have affected Rybarikova, who seemed to be more shaken by the noisy off-court action.
"It's not easy for her (Rybarikova), as it's not easy for me. And I think for me it's even worse but maybe because I'm coming from where I'm coming I'm more tough, I don't know," says Peer.
On Thursday, Peer will take centre court and centre stage for further protest action.
After the game, police cleared the protesters quickly.
But for one protester, there is a court appearance of another kind, after police arrested him for breaching the peace.
"We're not looking for any confrontation... there will be bigger and bigger protests here in Auckland protesting against her presence in representing Israel's policies," says Minto.
Peer says she has nothing to talk to the protesters about.
"I don't really have anything to say to them. They can do what they want. As long as I'm winning I don't care."