(photo credit: AP)
The lucrative Dubai tournament risks being struck from the women's tennis calendar after the United Arab Emirates refused a visa to Shahar Pe'er, the head of the WTA tour said Monday.
Larry Scott said barring entry to Pe'er could have ramifications beyond tennis because it threatens the principle that sports and politics should not mix.
Speaking in a telephone interview, he said the WTA will consider "what types of sanctions are going to be deemed to be appropriate in light of what has happened, including whether or not the tournament has a slot on the calendar next year."
Asked if there is a risk that the tournament could be dropped if Pe'er does not get redress, Scott replied: "You could say that, yes."
"There's two things we need to consider: what's the future fate of the Dubai tournament and what sanctions apply and the second thing is how does Shahar get treated fairly, how does her situation get redressed?" Scott, the WTA tour's chairman and CEO, told the Associated Press
In Israel, in a statement to the AP, Pe'er said: "I am very disappointed that I have been prevented from playing in the Dubai tournament. I think a red line has been crossed here that could harm the purity of the sport and other sports.
"I have always believed that politics and sports should not be mixed together."
The UAE rejected Pe'er's visa request a day before she was to arrive for the $2 million Dubai Tennis Championships, which includes all the top-10 women's players.
Pe'er, 21, ranked 45th, had qualified and was already placed in the woman's draw. She was scheduled to play Monday against 15th-seeded Russian Anna Chakvetadze.
Organizers gave Pe'er no reason for the rejection, but it appeared to be due to anti-Israel sentiments in the Gulf state, particularly after last month's three-week war between Israel and Islamic militants in Gaza.
"There are some very important principles at stake here," Scott said. "Sports and politics should not mix and the fundamental principles upon which the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour are founded include open and fair competition to all, regardless of nationality, creed, race, religion, etc.
"That's not just a principle that our Tour is founded upon but I think it is the underlying spirit of international sports in general and therefore I think the ramifications of what happened here ripple well beyond tennis."
"We will think deeply about this in making our decision on what our final response is," he said.
Scott said the WTA decided to continue with the tournament to avoid hurting the other players who are already in Dubai. That decision was taken in consultation with Pe'er, he said.
"She didn't want to see her fellow players harmed the same way she was being harmed," Scott said.
He said UAE officials did not give an exact reason why the visa was refused, "but it can really only be related to her nationality and political and security-related issues."
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