Shahar Peer defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain 6-4, 6-1 in the opening round of the WTA Dubai Championships today. She also won her opening doubles match.
Two years ago, Peer was denied entry into Dubai to compete in the tournament, raising hues and cries from some of her colleagues. Last year Venus Williams threatened to boycott the event if the Israeli — seeded ninth in this year’s event — was not allowed to participate.
An Associated Press story that appears on NYTimes.com discusses the security logistics Peer faces,
Like last year, Peer plays all of her matches on Court 1, the furthest court from the Aviation Club entrance and most isolated.
She calls it her second home.
“I know every corner on the court and every bounce, so it’s nice,” Peer said.
Only 20 spectators watched her Monday, and about double that Tuesday to no great surprise. The tournament is poorly attended until the end of the week. Nobody showed pro- or anti-Israeli sentiment and security was light with no police officers on the court and only a few guarding each entrance.
Despite reaching the semifinals last year, Peer wasn’t shown on local TV. Cameras are only on center court, and Williams agreed to play the semifinal on Court 1, which Peer appreciated.
Again, from the AP story:
Most Israeli athletes have faced similar threats along with their share of hooligan violence but none more than Peer, who is the country’s most prominent athlete. She said she takes it all in stride and insists she has done better at tournaments where there have been protests.
“Everywhere I go and I have those problems, I do very well, if it’s New Zealand or whatever,” Peer said. “It just inspires me and I try to do better. I get from somewhere the power and I play better.”
Peer, who will travel to the neighboring Gulf state of Qatar next week to play in the Qatar Ladies Open, said she hopes her presence in Middle East states often hostile to Israel can build mutual respect between the two sides.
“Obviously, I’m not the president or whatever. I cannot do big changes,” Peer said.
“If I can do something by playing in Dubai and Qatar and they say to me ‘we really appreciate it,’ that puts the politics aside. This is very important,” she said. “I think we are all trying to be human beings and to respect each other.”