Venus Williams disappointed Peer didn’t get visa

February 19th, 2009 - 2:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Venus WilliamsDubai, Feb 19 (DPA) Venus Williams said that amid her disappointment over the exclusion of Israeli Shahar Peer from the Barclays Championships, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will not be rushed into a decision on the future of the now-controversial Gulf event.
“I’m disappointed. I think she should have had the opportunity to play here,” said Williams, a WTA player council member, after reaching the quarter-finals by beating Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-2 here Wednesday.

“She’s a good person and should not be denied the right to play - we are all just people.”

Peer, a former Israeli soldier and 45th ranked player in the world, was refused a visa at the 11th hour by the UAE government, with the WTA now threatening to review the status of the rich event which laid the groundwork for the women’s game in the region from 2001.

Williams called the WTA Tour a “team” and said that there will be no rush to judgement.

“We’re all in this together - players, sponsors and the WTA,” said Williams. “There is no tour without all of us. I’m not playing hardball, I’m saying that we have to do everything we can to make sure all is correct on our tour.

“I thought it was unfair and we’re all very supportive of Shahar.”

Williams added that there had been no talk around the locker room of players boycotting the event which ends Saturday.

The men’s ATP, playing in Dubai next week, is expected to face a similar crisis within days if a visa for Israeli doubles player Andy Ram is rejected by an Arab government angry over the recent Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza which is said to have killed more than 1,000 civilians.

Peer played a year ago in Doha when that Emirate had low-level diplomatic relations with Israel - now suspended in the wake of the January attacks.

Williams said that the WTA will be discussing the Dubai issue at the highest internal level prior to the Miami event from mid-March.

“We have to look at this from all sides, we have to look at the big picture. Tennis is now huge in the Middle East for us.”

Amid the heated talk and outrage of the past days, minor sponsor Wall Street Journal Europe pulled out while the American Tennis Channel staged its own protest by refusing to telecast the event.

But title sponsor Barclays says it won’t be budging from either the women’s or men’s event this month.

In other third-round matches at the Aviation club, fifth seed Vera Zvonareva advanced into the last eight as 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli retired 5-2 with blistering on her feet.

“I had to do a lot of running yesterday in a three-hour match,” said the Frenchwoman. “Since I didn’t play for ten days after the Australian Open, the skin on my feet had become soft and I developed blisters.

“They got worse as the match went on and I knew I would not be able to finish.”

Elena Vesnina also benefited from a retirement as Slovak Dominika Cibulkova quit due to illness to hand over a 4-6, 6-1, 4-0 win to the Russian.

Former number 1 and reigning French Open winner Ana Ivanovic, seeded eighth, beat Camille Pin of France 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).

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