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Page last updated at 20:58 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Venus rules out boycott over Peer

Venus Williams
Williams will head to Indian Wells next month for a meeting on the Peer issue

Venus Williams says her fellow players had no intention of boycotting the Dubai Championships after Israeli Shahar Peer was denied a visa.

Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The WTA, governing body of women's tennis, says the event's future is in doubt after Peer was unable to play.

"There are so many other people involved. Sponsors are important to us," said Williams.

"We wouldn't be here without sponsors. We can't let sponsors down.

"Whatever we do, we need to do as a team - players, sponsors, tour and whoever - and not all break off in one direction. We are team players."

She shouldn't be denied, it's not right, she's just a person. We are all people, no matter where we are from

Williams on Peer
Tensions are high in the region after last month's hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israeli citizens are usually only allowed into the country if they have dual nationality or there are exceptional circumstances.

WTA chief Larry Scott has described the issue as "deeply troubling" and confirmed that the future of the tournament is under threat.

"Given all that Dubai has invested in sport and projecting the image of openness and fairness and security and all those things," Scott told the BBC World Service, "and knowing what I know about the development there and how important the role of sport is, I just didn't believe for a second that they would put all that at risk over this decision."

Billie Jean King, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles and campaigned vigorously for equality throughout her career, described the event organisers' stance as "shameful and definitely a step backwards".

"In the 21st century there is no reason a person should be restricted from doing his or her job because of their nationality, creed, race, gender or sexual orientation," she said.

"I trust the WTA Tour will look closely at the events in Dubai and take every step possible to ensure this type of distraction never happens again."

Williams, a leading member of the WTA players council, will travel to Miami next month to take part in a meeting which will discuss the issue.

"We have been successful in the past with many things," said Williams.

"This is a large tournament, with unprecedented prize money this year, and equal prize money (with the men) and all kinds of wonderful things, but of course we know how to work on it.

"Of course we don't jump to any conclusions. We feel like communication is the important thing and we know how to do that.

"That's what we need - good communication so we stay involved."

Williams, who reached the quarter-finals of the tournament with a 6-3 6-2 win over Alize Cornet on Wednesday, expressed her disappointment at Peer's predicament.

"I know she's previously played in the Middle East, in Doha, so it was my understanding she would have the opportunity to play here also, despite legislative issues," said the American.

"Obviously I am disappointed she hasn't had a chance to do this because she's a good person and works just as hard as anyone else on the tour, and should have the opportunity to play.

"She shouldn't be denied, it's not right, she's just a person. We are all people, no matter where we are from.

"I have to look at the bigger picture.

"The big picture is that Shahar Peer didn't get a chance to play, but making an immediate decision we also have to look at sponsors, fans and everyone who has invested a lot in the tournament.

"We are all going to consider what are options are for next year, but (this year) we didn't even know till Saturday (that Peer had been denied a visa).

"I think there are rules and protocols as to how you can proceed."

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see also
Ivanovic reaches Dubai quarters
18 Feb 09 |  Tennis
Ivanovic takes revenge in Dubai
16 Feb 09 |  Tennis
Tennis on the BBC
31 Jan 09 |  Tennis

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