Pressure will be on ATP if Ram visa is denied
If 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