Venus Williams hails 'brave' Peer after winning UAE tourney
Dubai Tennis Championship fined $300,000 after Peer denied visa; Organizers: Ram will be safe in Dubai.
Venus Williams hailed 'brave' Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer after winning the Dubai Tennis Championship on Saturday. Peer was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates for the tournament.
"I felt like I had to talk about her," Williams said. "I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen."
Williams earlier beat Virginie Razzano of France 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the championship to claim her 40th singles title.
She added: "I am not here to rock any boat or upset people, I am just here to do things that are right, and I think right things are already happening next week and right things will happen next year."
"Obviously, Andy Ram got his visa, so I'll be happy to come and defend next year. If everyone is not given the equal opportunity to play, I'd rethink but I love this tournament. They really care about the players."
Earlier Saturday, the director of Dubai's tennis tournament said Israeli player Andy Ram will have all the security he needs to play in the ATP Tour event starting Monday.
Salah Tahlak told reporters that Dubai is a safe place and organizers will make sure Ram has the necessary security to participate in the men's tournament.
Organizers cited security concerns for the decision to deny Peer a visa, which prompted protests from the Women's Tennis Association and fellow players.
UAE authorities granted Ram permission to enter the country on Thursday. Ram is ranked No.7 in the world in doubles.
WTA fines Dubai organizers $300,000 for denying Peer visa
The WTA fined Dubai Tennis Championships organizers a record $300,000 Friday after Peer was denied a visa by the UAE.
The Women's Tennis Association also took steps to compensate Peer and ensure she and other Israeli players won't be shut out of future tournaments in the federation.
Organizers said at the time that they feared fan anger over Israel's recent military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip would spill into riots if Peer were to play. The UAE and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.
Part of the fine - more than double the previous largest levied by the WTA - will go to Peer and doubles partner Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany to make up for the prize money they could have won at the lucrative tournament.
"I think what we hope with this decision is that we're sending a very clear message that we're not going to tolerate discrimination of any kind," tour CEO Larry Scott told The Associated Press. "We wanted to send a clear signal that this is the most egregious action the world of tennis has seen in recent history. And we felt that it should be at least double what the previous highest penalty was."
As important, Scott said, was requiring the organizers to post a $2 million performance guarantee - something normally not required by established, financially sound events like the Dubai Tennis Championships. "There's never been any significant issue with them before," Scott said.
The WTA was able to hold the tournament accountable in part because of its association with Dubai Duty Free, a government enterprise, Scott said. The event's Web site includes the statement that it is "Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai."
Peer, who will receive $44,250, was also given 130 ranking points, equivalent to the ones she earned in the same week last year. She'll keep them until she plays in another tournament that offers a chance at the same amount she could have won in Dubai.
Groenefeld will get $7,950, roughly equivalent to her average doubles take from last year. The balance of the fine will go to a charity that will be chosen by the tour and Peer.
Dubai organizers also must confirm that qualifying Israeli players will get visas at least eight weeks in advance to remain on the tour schedule for 2010. Additionally, Peer will be guaranteed a wild-card entry if she doesn't qualify.