Tennis: Pe’er prepared for Dubai debut

“I’m not scared,” said Pe’er, who faces world No. 15 Yanina Wickmayer on Monday.

Shahar Pe’er continued her preparations in Dubai on Sunday ahead of her participation in the lucrative Tennis Championships this week.
The 22-year-old Israeli was denied a visa to the country last year, apparently because of anti-Israel sentiments in the Gulf state following Operation Cast Lead.
However, the United Arab Emirates provided last month written confirmation to the WTA that it will allow Pe’er to take part in the $2 million event, and the Israeli said she feels safe in the country.
“I’m not scared,” said Pe’er, who faces world No. 15 Yanina Wickmayer on Monday in an extremely difficult first-round encounter.
“I’m looking forward to a fun experience in Dubai. What happened last year hurt me because I should have never been denied the chance to play in the tournament. I hope everyone learned their lesson.”
The tournament was fined $300,000 for denying the visa and was made to promise to meet other requirements, including written confirmation that Pe’er would be able to play.
“There is no question that what happened last year was unfortunate on many fronts,” tournament director Salah Tahlak said in a recent interview.
“Our focus today, however, is on looking forward, on continuing to building on our outstanding event.”
Dov Pe’er, Shahar’s father and manager, said he supported his daughter’s decision to play.
“She’s a professional tennis player and she will go,” he said in a phone conversation.
He said no special protection for his daughter was requested from Dubai organizers and “nobody [in Israel] told us not to go.”
Organizers said the safety and security of all players was a priority, and Israeli tennis officials said they were confident athletes would be safe in the Gulf state.
“I am sure that the authorities in Dubai know how to take care of our players,” said Michael Klein, chairman of the Israel Tennis Association.
“We don’t think we need to get involved. We only know about tennis, not about security.”
The women’s and men’s events, (the men’s follows a week later), features 16 of the top 20 players. Top-ranked Serena Williams will miss the tournament because of a leg injury, and No. 2 Dinara Safina withdrew last week because of a back injury.
Caroline Wozniacki, a US Open finalist last year, is the top seed, andwill be followed by the reigning French Open champion SvetlanaKuznetsova. Venus Williams is the third seed.
After she won the tournament last year, Venus Williams said herdecision to return to defend her title would rest on whether Pe’er wasallowed to play in 2010.
AP contributed to this report