x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Williams condemns decision to bar Pe'er

The decision to prevent an Israeli player from competing the tennis tournament was condemned by Venus Williams.

DUBAI // Venus Williams, the five-time Wimbledon champion, yesterday condemned the decision to prevent the Israeli player Shahar Pe'er from competing in this week's Dubai Tennis Championships. Pe'er was refused a visa to the UAE. Tournament organisers said they were concerned for her safety. Williams, a leader in the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), suggested that the players might not return for the tournament next year because of how Pe'er was treated.

"I know she had previously played in the Middle East, in Doha last year, so it was my understanding that she would have the opportunity to play here also despite any legislative issues," William said. "Obviously I'm disappointed she hasn't had the chance to play because she is a good person and she works just as hard as everyone else on the tour and should have the opportunity of playing. She was asked why, if she felt so strongly about Pe'er's exclusion from the tournament, she had not led a players' boycott.

"I think that we all have to look at the bigger picture, and the biggest part of the picture is that Shahar Pe'er didn't get the chance to play. But making an immediate decision this year was not practical. "We have sponsors and fans and everyone who has invested a lot in the tournament. I think we are all going to consider what our options are next year, but obviously we didn't even know about this until Saturday."

Williams, who is a member of the WTA Players' Council, which will meet next month to discuss the issue, added: "Obviously my first reaction was that it was unfair. I'm very supportive of Shahar in whatever way I can be. "It is very important to me to be a council member, because I'm part of representing the players, getting their opinions and representing them on everything. So it is a huge matter of concern for me."

Asked what might happen next week when the Israeli men's doubles player, Andy Ram, tries to enter the UAE, she said: "I hope the message would be that, the second time around, they would have an opportunity for every person to play." Jelena Jankovic, the world No 3 from Serbia, made a shock exit from the tournament last night after being beaten by the Estonian Kaia Kanepe. Jankovic was despatched 6-2, 7-5 in 85 minutes.

Serena Williams faced Chinese Jie Zheng and after a tight first set coasted into the quarter-finals a 6-4, 6-2 winner. wjohnson@thenational.ae