Maybe it’s because I’m a lifetime tennis player, but I have been seething for the last day upon learning that the Israeli contestant Shahar Peer was denied a visa to participate in this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships – and yet the tournament is going on. Peer is the world’s 48th ranking women’s player, normally more than sufficient to appear in a tournament of this level. She was scheduled to play Anna Chakvetadze in the first round.
The World Tennis Association – sponsors of the tournament with the Association of Tennis Professionals – huffed and puffed over the banning:
“Ms Peer and her family are obviously extremely upset and disappointed by the decision of the UAE and its impact on her personally and professionally,” added [WTA chief executive Larry] Scott.
He said the tournament will open as scheduled on, but stressed that WTA tour officials will “review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament.”
The WTA “believes very strongly and has a clear rule and policy that no host country should deny a player the right to compete in a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking,” Scott said.
Peer had planned to travel to Dubai from Thailand, where she lost in the semifinal of the Pattaya Open to fifth-ranked Vera Zvonareva of Russia on Saturday. In Dubai, she was replaced in the draw by Japan’s Ayumi Morita.
Okay, let’s start with Morita. Why would she replace Peer under these circumstances? Doesn’t the Japan Tennis Association have anything to say about that? And what about the other players and countries? Is it okay with them that a tournament goes on when a player is excluded for reason of national origin? And how about the WTA itself? They don’t exactly sound like a forceful outfit. Indeed, by allowing this, they have made their organization the enablers of cynical international politics heavily tinged with racism.
Consider this, Mr. Scott. What would you have done if this were the Tel Aviv Tennis Championships and a player from the United Arab Emirates was denied entry? My guess is that would have been the end of the tournament right then and there. Or how about this? What if a player from Northern Ireland were suddenly prevented from playing at Wimbledon?
Well, you get the point. One country appears not to be treated the way others would be.
Meanwhile, Dubai continues to try to project an image of modernity to the world. Maybe those ports weren’t such a smart idea after all.