Shahar Peer, a Jewish tennis player traveling on her Israeli passport, was denied a visa, and the chance to play in this week’s Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.
Peer was scheduled to play Russian Anna Chakvetadze in the first round of the tournament, a major stop on the early-season circuit that features all but one of the top-10 players.
By refusing Peer’s visa, Dubai’s lucrative tournament risks being struck from the women’s tennis calendar.
Larry Scott, chairman and chief executive of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, commented, “We knew it was an issue, but we made it clear that she was going to be in the draw and we wanted to be optimistic that she would get the visa…Then they waited until the 11th hour to deny it.”
Shortly after the visa refusal, there were deliberations on whether or not the tournament should be cancelled. Peer and her family called for caution because they didn’t want all the players to be harmed because of her situation.
Although next year may mean the loss of this tournament for Dubai, the tournament will continue for the other 55 players this week.
Peer’s nationality has caused her difficulties on the tennis tour before. In 2006, she and her doubles partner, Sania Mirza of India, were forced to split because of objections from Indian Muslims.
There is always going to be international conflict, and athletes caught in the middle. A New York Times article on the incident states that these athletes can’t be abandoned there when there is a choice. Tennis should finish its business in the gulf this month, and say bye-bye, Dubai. And just like that, the glitter and promise of the UAE as an emerging international sports center may have evaporated into the cool desert night.