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peer hands up 298.88.(Photo by: AP)
The sad cancellation of the Anda Open
The WTA canceled the tennis tournament, which was set to feature Pe'er, Smashnova, Obziler and many other int'l stars, due to "the security situation."
If you'd have asked a year ago where I'd be this past Thursday, I would have likely looked at my date book and replied, "I'll be watching tennis." And in a feat that my family and friends might call "incredible," I actually was watching tennis this past Thursday evening. And what a match it was. Even though Shahar Pe'er fell short in her bid to upset world No. 3 Maria Sharapova at the Zurich Open, her effort was spectacular, drawing the best of the Russian star in a match that saw countless beautiful points. And when it was over, I felt sad. Not necessarily because Pe'er had lost. Of course that was a pity, but any tennis fan can only be proud of her and applaud her effort. I was sad because my original plan was to watch Pe'er play at home this week at the Anda Open, the first-ever WTA Tour event in Israel. All of the top Israeli players were scheduled to come - Pe'er, Anna Smashnova and Tzipi Obziler, plus many other international stars to make up a 32-player field. Unfortunately, the WTA canceled the tournament in August because of "the security situation." Of course that was during the war in Lebanon. How silly it all seems now. The war is long over. Life continues as usual. And Shahar Pe'er is playing tennis in Switzerland instead. One must wonder, was the WTA's decision made really because it feared for the players' safety, or because it washed its hands of a potential headache? I would think the latter. The last time the WTA admitted that it couldn't guarantee a player's safety at an event, it was the player who was asked not to participate, and not the other way around. Obziler was scheduled to play in a Tier IV event in Casablanca, Morocco, in 2004. But when the locals decided that they didn't want to vouch for her safety, the WTA "advised" Obziler not to play. How sad. But here the situation was quite the opposite. The Israel Tennis Association was all too pleased to host this event. No one really believed that the fighting would last into October. And it didn't. The Israel Tennis Association and the government would have vouched for the players' safety, but they weren't really given the chance. I suppose that if I really wanted to get to the bottom of this, I would have spent the week on the phones, asking the WTA what happened, then checking with the people at the ITA that they are in fact telling the truth. But unfortunately, I too have been broken. I've seen basketball, soccer and handball matches canceled here. I've seen games go on, but players not come. And the number of times that I've seen an international body stand up for Israel's right to host games and to make sure that there be a clear separation between politics and sports... That I can count on one hand. So I didn't call anyone. I just vented here. But please join me in hoping that next year at this time, I will in fact be watching Pe'er play Sharapova - or anyone else - from an uncomfortable seat at Canada Stadium at the Tennis Center in Ramat Hasharon instead of on Eurosport from the cozy confines of my living room. Oh. And while we're at it, she should win too. The writer is a former Sports Editor of The Jerusalem Post
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