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Peer pressure for Dubai Open

February 16, 2009 10:21 IST
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The future of the $2 million Dubai Tennis championship was questioned by the WTA on Sunday after Israeli player Shahar Peer was denied an entry visa to the United Arab Emirates.

"We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the United Arab Emirates denying Shahar Peer a visa that would permit her to enter the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships," Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour CEO Larry Scott said in a statement.

"(Peer) has earned the right to play in the tournament and it is regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right," he added.

"The Tour has decided to allow the tournament to continue to be played this week, pending further review by the Tour's Board of Directors.

"The Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament."

WTA rules state that no host country can deny a player the right to compete at any event on the tour for which she has qualified by ranking.

The Dubai event is one of the most prestigious on the WTA Tour and this week features every player from the world's top 10 except the injured Nadia Petrova.

Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and Israeli citizens are routinely denied entry.

There was no immediate comment from either Dubai Duty Free, owners and organisers of the event, or the UAE government.

Israel Tennis Association (ITA) chief executive, Moshe Haviv, appealed to the Tour to ensure that Peer's ranking would not be harmed through her inability to play in Dubai.

In a letter addressed to Scott, the ITA also expressed "great surprise" at the UAE government's decision.

Peer, a former top 20 player currently ranked 48th in the world, became the first Israeli to play in a tour event in the Gulf Arab region when she took part in the Qatar Open in February 2008.

"I really got a warm welcome from the tournament," she said at the time. "When you go on the court you don't think about politics. You just want to play your tennis."

Qatar, which had low-level ties with Israel including an Israeli trade office in its capital, suspended those relations in protest against the three-week Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip that ended in January.

The Gaza offensive, which killed 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis, caused deep anger around the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Seven-times grand slam champion Venus Williams said the players were behind Peer.

"I think the tournament would like to have Shahar Peer here if it was their choice," she added.

Russian world number seven Svetlana Kuznetsova added: "There has been so much effort by other players to come here I don't think it would be the right decision to cancel it for today, but maybe next time they should do something.

"I think the Tour is going to find the solution."

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