A picture taken on February 20, 2008 shows Israel's Shahar Pe'er during her tennis match against France's Virginie Razzano on the third day of the Qatar Open WTA tournament in Doha. The future of the Dubai Open may be at risk after Peer was prevented from competing in the event which started on February 15, 2009. The world number 48 from Israel has been denied a visa into the Gulf state, bringing a strongly worded statement from the Women's Tennis Association. The blocking is a surprise because Pe'er was given a visa to play in the Qatar Open last year, a visit which was a considerable success both in tennis and diplomatic terms.
In her own words:
I welcome the decision just announced by the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai tournament to reverse a stance that until now has prevented Israeli athletes from competing in the UAE. This is a great victory for the principle that all athletes should be treated equally and without discrimination, regardless of gender, religion, race or nationality. It is also a victory for sport as a whole, and the power of sport to bring people together.
It is still very unfortunate that due to the decision of the Dubai tournament and the UAE, I could not participate in the tournament this year. This has hurt me significantly both personally and professionally. However I am very happy for Andy Ram, who will be able to compete next week in Dubai. I hope and believe that from this day forward, athletes from all over the world will be able to compete in the UAE and anywhere else in the world without discrimination of any kind. I personally look forward to competing in Dubai next year.
This has been a very difficult period for me, and I want to thank the many thousands of fans and organizations all over the world that made this breakthrough possible, including the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and my fellow players. All of them have supported me these past days, weeks and months. It is truly humbling and also inspiring to know how many of us feel strongly and are willing to do all that we can to break down barriers of discrimination.