Tennis: Pe'er receives visa for Dubai tournament

Tennis Peer receives v

After last year's debacle, Shahar Pe'er will get the chance to play in Dubai next month like every other top women's player. The United Arab Emirates provided written confirmation to the WTA that it will allow Pe'er to play at the prestigious event. Pe'er was denied entry into the UAE for the 2009 tournament, apparently because of anti-Israel sentiments in the Gulf state following Operation Cast Lead. "The tour has received written confirmation from the UAE Ministry of Interior that she will be able to enter and participate in the event without incident," WTA spokeswoman Katie Scott said Wednesday. The Dubai Tennis Championships starts on February 15. Last year, the tournament was fined $300,000 for denying the visa and was made to promise to meet other requirements. "One of the conditions that Dubai had to meet was that this year there would have to be a written confirmation that she would be able to play because last year there were just verbal assurances," Scott said. The government of the UAE could not immediately be reached for comment. After the UAE's refusal last year to allow Pe'er to enter the country, Andy Ram was given a visa to play the following week at the men's tournament in Dubai. But Andy Roddick, the 2008 champion in Dubai, skipped the 2009 tournament because of the incident involving Pe'er, saying he "didn't agree with what went on over there." Earlier Wednesday, Pe'er advanced to the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic and admitted afterwards that the anti-Israeli protests outside the Auckland Tennis Center are only helping her play better. Pe'er, ranked number 30 in the world, thrashed Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova (44) 6-1, 6-0 in a match that was stopped after the first set while officials discussed for 15 minutes whether or not to continue. Pe'er insisted on keeping on playing and wrapped up the win in an hour and six minutes. Police made one arrest as they dispersed protesters who gathered outside the stadium, banged drums and chanted throughout Pe'er's appearance on an outer court. The protest failed to break Pe'er's rhythm or concentration. She won 74 percent of first serve points, never faced a break point, and her strong return of service allowed her to convert five of 11 break-point chances. "It did encourage me," Pe'er said of the protests after the match. "Like yesterday when I was hearing that it made me play better to prove I can also play with the noise. "I think it was really bad, yesterday was a bit better. Today was much more louder. I guess those people know exactly where to stand so that we can hear them well and it was continual, it didn't stop. "They're doing what they want. Everyone can do whatever they want, as long as I'm winning I don't care. I also want peace in the world but I don't think this is the place for this protest." Rybarikova admitted the protests had put her off. "I have to say it was tough to play during the protest," she said. "I lost the first set because I was not concentrating. I was thinking about that and not my tennis." Pe'er will face Maria Kirilenko (62) in the last eight on Thursday, with the Russian beating Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2, 6-3 in the second round. Meanwhile, Justine Henin claimed a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 132-ranked Sesil Karatantcheva to reach the Brisbane International quarterfinals on Wednesday. "It's only my second match and the fact that I win, and I have an opportunity to play a third match tomorrow in a row, that gives a lot of confidence," Henin said. "I realized on the court it's important I had to be more offensive, and I did when I had to." Harel Levy (119) was knocked out in the second round of the men's tournament in Brisbane on Wednesday, losing 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci (36). Levy claimed his first win in an ATP Tour main draw in more than five years to reach the second round. Also Wednesday, Ram and Michael Llodra progressed to the quarterfinals of the doubles tournament in Brisbane, beating Peter Luczak and Joseph Sirianni 3-6, 6-4, 10-7. And top-ranked Roger Federer and No. 2 Rafael Nadal each won in straight sets Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals at the Qatar Open. Federer beat Evgeny Korolev of Russia 6-2, 6-4 and Nadal defeated Potito Starace of Italy 6-2, 6-2. Federer broke three times in the first set and once in the second. The Swiss star, who won the Qatar Open in 2005 and '06, will next play either Andreas Seppi of Italy or Ernests Gulbis of Latvia on Thursday. "I know how he plays so I had the match under control," Federer said. "He plays a lot of balls on the forehand, so I was able to stay ahead in the match. There were long rallies in the second set, but I am pleased to have reached the quarterfinals." It was Federer's 17th win in Doha, having lost only two matches in five appearances at the tournament. Nadal improved to 6-0 against Starace, who has only a 2-16 record against top-10 opponents. The Spaniard broke Starace twice in each set, returning well from the baseline and taking advantage of Starace twice hitting groundstrokes into the net. Nadal will next play Steve Darcis of Belgium, who beat Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco 6-3, 6-1. "I am happy with my form," Nadal said. "This was confirmation that I am playing well. Right now, I am just concentrating on winning each game I play... Now, I am only taking one match at a time. It wasn't a tough match." Third-seeded Nikolay Davydenko topped Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4, while Victor Troicki of Serbia beat Olivier Rochus of Belgium 6-2, 6-2. "I am surprised to have won the match in two sets," Davydenko said. "I practiced for only two weeks and then I fell sick. I was on medicine before coming here, so I am still struggling with my shots."