Sela falls in Memphis semifinal; Roddick steps up for Pe'er

WTA fines Dubai Tennis Championships organizers a record $300,000 for denying Pe'er a visa.

By AP
February 21, 2009 06:17
4 minute read.
Sela falls in Memphis semifinal; Roddick steps up for Pe'er

roddick focused 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Dudi Sela's hopes of reaching a second career ATP tour final ended in bitter disappointment on Saturday, but it was Andy Roddick who made all the headlines in Memphis, Tennessee with an off-court announcement. Roddick revealed after his victory in Friday's quarterfinal that he won't defend his title in Dubai this week because he doesn't agree with the United Arab Emirates' decision to deny Shahar Pe'er a visa to play in the women's tournament. "I really didn't agree with what went on over there. I don't know if it's the best thing to mix politics and sports, and that was probably a big part of it," said Roddick, who played Lleyton Hewitt in the semis late Saturday. "There were a lot of factors why I should probably go, and obviously having played well there doesn't make it any easier," added Roddick, who is currently ranked sixth in the world. "It's just disappointing that reflects on a tournament that probably didn't have much to do with the decision. Nevertheless, I just don't feel like there's a need for that in a sporting event. I don't think you make political statements through sports." Sela (86 in the world), who was hoping to face either Roddick or Hewitt in the final, was left licking his wounds after suffering a 3-6, 1-6 thrashing at the hands of Czech Radek Stepanek in te semifinals of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships. Sela, who had to come through two qualifying rounds just to reach the main draw in Memphis, was looking to advance to a second tour final after playing in the title match in Beijing last September. However, he never found his footing against the world number 19 and didn't really have any chance of winning after taking just eight points on the Czech's serve throughout the match. "I had no chance, but I feel my game is improving. Overall, this was a very good week, especially as I don't really like playing indoors," Sela said. "He played really well. You can tell he's playing with a lot of confidence and that he's going through a very good period." On Friday, the WTA fined Dubai Tennis Championships organizers a record $300,000 for denying Pe'er a visa. The Women's Tennis Association also took steps to compensate Pe'er and ensure she and other Israeli players won't be shut out of future tournaments in the federation. Organizers said at the time that they feared fan anger over Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip would spill into riots if Pe'er were to play. The UAE and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. Part of the fine - more than double the previous largest levied by the WTA - will go to Pe'er and doubles partner Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany to make up for the prize money they could have won at the lucrative tournament with a purse of $2 million. "I think what we hope with this decision is that we're sending a very clear message that we're not going to tolerate discrimination of any kind," tour CEO Larry Scott told The Associated Press. "We wanted to send a clear signal that this is the most egregious action the world of tennis has seen in recent history. And we felt that it should be at least double what the previous highest penalty was." As important, Scott said, was requiring the organizers to post a $2 million performance guarantee - something normally not required by established, financially sound events like the Dubai Tennis Championships. The WTA was able to hold the tournament accountable in part because of its association with Dubai Duty Free, a government enterprise, Scott said. The event's Web site includes the statement that it is "under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai." Pe'er, who will receive $44,250, also was given 130 ranking points, equivalent to the ones she earned in the same week last year. She'll keep them until she plays in another tournament that offers a chance at the same amount she could have won in Dubai. Groenefeld will get $7,950, roughly equivalent to her average doubles take from last year. The balance of the fine will go to a charity that will be chosen by the tour and Pe'er. Dubai organizers also must confirm that qualifying Israeli players will get visas at least eight weeks in advance to remain on the tour schedule for 2010. Additionally, Pe'er will be guaranteed a wild-card entry if she doesn't qualify. Venus Williams won her 40th singles title Saturday, beating Virginie Razzano of France 6-4, 6-2 in the final in Dubai. During the prize presentation, Williams spoke about Pe'er. "I felt like I had to talk about her," Williams said. "I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen." On Thursday, the UAE said it would grant Andy Ram a visa so he could play in the $2.2 million men's tournament that starts Monday. The ATP had warned that future events could be in jeopardy if Ram wasn't allowed to enter. Ram and Julian Knowle will play in the final of the doubles tournament of the Open 13 in Marseille on Sunday after defeating Tomas Berdych and Jan Hernych 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the semis.

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