Pressure will be on ATP if Ram visa is denied

February 18, 2009

peerIf Israel’s Shahar Peer had been competing in the 1970s, it is likely that her fellow players
would have rallied around her and boycotted this week’s Dubai Championships after she was denied a visa to enter the UAE.

Since the United Arab Emirates has no diplomatic links with Israel, Peer was denied a visa into the country and had to forfeit her place in the Dubai draw.

Although her fellow professionals, including five-times Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, strongly condemned the tournament’s stance, the show still went on in Dubai.

But sometimes actions speak louder than words.

After all, it was only 35 years ago when 81 players boycotted Wimbledon in 1973 to protest the suspension of Niki Pilic.

The Yugoslav tennis federation alleged that Pilic had refused to represent them in a Davis Cup tie. Pilic denied the charge but was suspended by the federation and as a result he was barred from entering major tournaments.

Pilic’s fellow professionals, including 13 of the 16 seeds, decided to make a stand on the most famous tennis stage and withdrew from Wimbledon.

Had Peer been around during Billie Jean King’s era, the American¬†may well have led a similar revolt.

WTA chief Larry Scott defended his players for not taking a stronger stand since Peer’s predicament came to light only on Saturday as the draw for the tournament was taking place.

“The men had at least six months to plan the ’73 boycott. That didn’t happen in 12 hours,” Scott told Reuters.

“All our players were either in Dubai already or in transit on the way to Dubai and we did not really have much time to react to the situation.”

The men almost certainly will face a similar dilemma next week since Israel’s Andy Ram has been included in the doubles draw for the men’s Dubai event.

Should the UAE bar Ram from entering the country, the ATP Tour will surely have little option but to take a stand and boycott the event.

Unlike the women, the men cannot use time constraints as an excuse for not taking action.

PHOTO: Israel’s Shahar Peer returns a shot to Russia’s Vera Zvonareva during their semi-final at the PTT Pattaya Open, Feb.¬†14, 2009. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Let’s hope the ATP does not let Dubai wait until the 11th hour to refuse Ram’s visa. They should give the country a deadline of today or Thursday so it can cancel before players/staff arrive in Dubai City. The ATP-Dubai contract requires the host country to admit any qualified player regardless of nationality.

Posted by bobbynorwich | Report as abusive

Unacceptable. You can’t play a sport if those you want to compete against are barred from playing. We have a nasty history of this, but sport i feel is always at the forefront of breaking down issues like these. The spirit of friendly competition needs to live on.

Posted by KevinS | Report as abusive

Hi Pritha,

Thank you for the link to On the Baseline. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how the WTA responds to this situation, as well as how the ATP handles next week’s tournament in Dubai.

Posted by Aaress @ On the Baseline | Report as abusive

Twelve hours isn’t long enough for Mr. Scott to think of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? How long does it take to say, “Nope, that’s wrong, we’re not playing.” Best case, Mr. Scott and the young women he is supposed to provide leadership for could have called their bluff. Worst case, they’d have sacrificed some money for the cause we want to be known for in the world (don’t we?): fairness, refusal to be bullied ourselves or let haters intimidate others out of their rights. Mr. Scott had history hand him a brilliant moment, and he punted and hid behind the victim. We could have used another hero — this time a CEO who didn’t cave in for greed. Shame on Barclays (we just give them our name and money — we’re helpless). Bravo to The Tennis Channel and Wall Street Journal Europe for pulling their camers and sponsorship.

Posted by acain | Report as abusive

Remove the tournament from Dubai, if everyone cant play then no one can. Move it to a place where all players will be welcome. Im sure that would change their minds.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive

Well, Dubai did give Ram a visa, as we all saw, but it’s interesting that Andy Roddick has decided not to play there anyway, in large part because of the Peer decision. So an individual did step up.

Posted by Kev | Report as abusive