Comment: The inside scoop on Shahar’s Dubai security

The tennis court was really the only place Pe’er was not surrounded by her security detail during her time in Dubai.

Peer in Dubai 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Peer in Dubai 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
DUBAI – Shahar Pe’er’s stay at the Dubai Tennis Championships was one round shorter this year, and her security detail more relaxed – but the extra attention afforded the 23-year-old Israeli was, like last year, the most fascinating extraathletic aspect of the tournament here.
There seemed to be a dual purpose to Pe’er’s security detail, which was made up of plainclothes Dubai Criminal Investigation Department police officers: keeping her safe, while drawing the least amount of attention possible towards her nationality and situation.
Her matches were the only ones in which the players’ countries were not included on the scoreboard.
During interviews with Pe’er, questions relating only to tennis were allowed – nothing on security, how she felt in Dubai, or politics – and they could only be asked in English.
After her matches, I was led to a compound behind Court One, where four CID officers were sitting outside the door. Another two were sitting inside the interview room.
By comparison, most press conferences, held in a wing of the Center Court complex, consisted only of journalists.
While she was on court, Pe’er was free to do what she pleased. One guard in a suit stood behind her bench during her win over Yanina Wickmayer on Thursday, and there were two during her loss to Wozniacki on Friday.
After Wednesday’s victory over Alexandra Dulgheru, she stayed out to hit balls with coach Craig Kardon.
But in the stands, it was a different story.
Her father, Dov – the final third of the Pe’er camp here – was flanked by at least one CID officer at all times on Wednesday and Thursday, when he sat in the grandstand. On Friday, when her match was moved from Court One to Court Two, to accommodate the influx of fans for a quarterfinal match against Wozniacki, Dov and Kardon sat in a box on the other side of the court.
On Wednesday and Thursday, any attempt to approach Dov in the stands was met with a gesture to distance myself, either from Pe’er himself or a guard.
At one point during Shahar’s doubles match on Thursday, I was sitting near Dov, speaking to Kardon about tennis.
About a minute into our conversation, Shahar herself gestured up to the stands for me to move away from her father and coach.
Earlier during that match, I had taken a photograph of Dov and two officers in the stands. Several minutes later while I was leaving the stadium, I was approached by three men identifying themselves as Dubai Police who told me to delete the photo. After some initial hesitation, I acquiesced for the sake of future coverage of the tournament.
The officers were never forceful or unpleasant, and by all accounts from the Pe’er camp, they did their best to keep her comfortable while ensuring her safety, and succeeded.
And though the extra security measures constituted an annoyance for others around her – Wozniacki expressed aggravation at the notion of playing a match on a side court, though it didn’t affect her performance in the end.
Pe’er proved, like last year, that she can thrive in exceptional, uncomfortable situations.