Tennis’ Outrage Over Dubai — But Did This Happen Last Year Too?
by Richard Vach | February 19th, 2009, 6:02 pm

Much has been made over the WTA Dubai event denying Israel’s Shahar Peer a spot in their draw, and now the ATP Dubai event subsequently acquiescing to allowing Israel’s Andy Ram in their doubles draw.

But did this happen at last year’s ATP Dubai event, and it was swept under the rug?

There was no outrage last year when Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel, one of the top ATP doubles teams (they had just won the Australian Open) entered the ATP Dubai event, bought flights to the ATP Dubai event, then — didn’t show up.

“We can say that we want to play there in the future, like we did this year,” Ram said after last year’s Dubai event, as reported by USA Today’s Doug Robson, who did some lengthy investigative pieces on the incident, generally getting the run-around by all parties involved.

“It’s a very delicate issue,” Erlich added. “We need to keep it vague right now. Next year we will definitely try to go there.”

While Erlich reportedly made the decision not to go, and convinced Ram, Robson noted the odd account of the ATP reimbursing Erlich and Ram for their flights and other expenses. That was an exceedingly nice gesture, considering the ATP probably rarely covers a players’ expenses when they pull out of a tournament at the last minute, on their own accord.

“Neither Andy Ram or Jonathan Erlich were denied a visa last year,” the ATP’s Kris Dent told me on Thursday. “The event gave assurances at the time that they would be allowed to play, both players though decided not to travel from Israel and enter the event.”

End of story?

Robson also reported that ATP Player Council member Bob Bryan asked Erlich/Ram about the ATP’s version of the 2008 Dubai incident.

“I told them the story I heard, and they laughed,” Bryan said.

You can read Robson’s story here: or his more in-depth blog version here:

Following today’s announcement that the ATP Dubai event would let Ram play this year, the ATP and WTA put out releases by everyone involved and their mothers regarding how everything with pro tennis in Dubai is hunky-dorey.

“I am pleased that the UAE have today confirmed that I will be able to travel to their country next week to compete in the Dubai Tennis Championships,” Ram said in an ATP release. “As a professional tennis player I thrive on competing at the world’s best events and next week will be no different. I want to thank everyone involved for their support over the last week. My focus is now on my tennis and ensuring that I can perform to the best of my abilities on court and I am very much looking forward to doing that in Dubai next week.”

As the Peer-Dubai-Ram incident gets wrapped up in a neat bow in the coming days, and the WTA announces that their Dubai event will receive a slap on the wrist for booting Peer from the draw, we’re left wondering if this actually first happened last year, but the ATP managed to hush up what this year became a PR nightmare on the women’s side.

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34 Comments for Tennis’ Outrage Over Dubai — But Did This Happen Last Year Too?

Shan Says:

It’s already too late, the PR damage is done but unfortunately the money will continue to talk

Von Says:

Why didn’t Erlich & Ram pull out of Dubai in support of their country-woman Shahar Peer? Is money and competing more important than kindred spirit or one’s country?

Ryan Says:

If UAE wants to bring politics into sport then the atp should disqualify all the tournaments in the middle east.This has happened before with some middle eastern countries banning danish products wen those cartoons were made.If they wanna bring it then they should be given the the same type of treatment.. send all these arabs back home from western countries and cut out the oil trade. There are other countries with oil reserves anyway

tenisbebe Says:

I’m outraged by the stupidity of using a tennis blog to voice personal political views. So please, Put a Sock in it, y’all!
Good point Voicemail 1 about Ram/Urlich withdrawing from Dubai but MONEY TALKS and the prize money in this one is up there. At this point, I think it would seem a little peevish for them to pull out without the support of the other ATP players. Had they been denied Visa’s (Ram has a Uruguayian passport; don’t know about Urlich), then think alot of the other players would have baled. We’ll never know now though….

ben Says:

if the atp rep told you that, why didn’t you press him and get clarity on what happened last year? bad reporting.

tenisbebe, ram was born in uruguay but he is an israeli and has an Israeli passport. the other guy is erlich, not urlich.

fed is afraid Says:

i am outraged over federer being considered the GOAT. he isn’t even in the top 5.

JustMe Says:

Erlich is an Israeli but was born in Argentina and has an Argentinian passport as well as an Israeli passport.

Peer sees no place for politics in tennis : Pretty Tough | Girls Who Are Fun Fierce & Feminine Says:

[…] it seems a similar thing may have actually first happened last year with Ram. Did the ATP manage to hush up what this year became a PR nightmare on the women’s […]

tenisbebe Says:

Ben – I heard that Ram had a passport (valid but unused) issued from Uruguay and that was how the ATP was going to get around the “no one with an Israeli passport” rule in Dubai. Sounds like Erlich (sorry about the spelling) has 2 passports/dual citizenship as well and perhaps that is why they were issued Visas. That was my point.

blakemccaski11 Says:

dubai makes me sick as a christian believer

Marvin Says:

Dent lied, once again, they were denied a visa in 2008. So did ex CEO DeVilliers. Why did they give money to Erlich and Ram last year? To shut them up, that’s why. Just ask them or their ex management company.

Mark Nicholas Says:

Hi guys.

Mark Nicholas Says:

If Nadal and Federer had started their careers at the same time, by this time Nadal would have won 18 grand slams while Federer only 2

bobbynorwich Says:

Dubai is having an economic slump now, laying off thousands of workers and losing tourist revenue. On television, it looks like every year the Dubai stands are half empty for the WTA tournie. So I’m wondering who needs who more. The WTA is meeting next month to review whether to stay in Dubai next year. Even odds that they leave for a more hospitable venue.

tenisbebe Says:

Yes, it’s speculated there are over 3,000 cars abandoned at the airport. Crazy. Anyway, where else would they have the tournament? Dubai was thought to be the last vestige of stability in this global economic crisis but now that’s out the window. Sponsors are broke, pulling out of sports events left & right. I think they’ll stay put and fine the tourney/govt (one in the same) according to the contract and hope all of this goes away.

tennisismygame Says:

blakemccaski11 Says:
dubai makes me sick as a christian believer

Whatever the hell that means.

Marvin – all of that is pure speculation. Though be it that the whole thing looks suspect, none of the parties involved have admitted althing publicly. And if Ram/Ehlich did accept hush money they can’t very well complain now.

Colin Says:

If it was OK for the United States to boycott the Moscow Olympics, thus denying competition to ITS OWN athletes, why is it so unthinkable for an Arab country to keep out Israelis now? Conversely, was it fine for the US to send a team to the Berlin Olympics in 1936? And remember, as many seem to be ignoring, that this isn’t the Dubai tennis authority keeping people out – it’s their government.

I like tennis bullies Says:

still no comment from king federer of dubai?

MMT Says:

Colin – if a country chooses to participate in an event, then they must abide by all it’s rules. There are no rules against a country boycotting the Olympics. But there are rules against a tennis tournament discriminating against someone because of their nationality. This is a question of rules and how/if they are applied.

Nobody forced Dubai to host tennis tournaments, but if they do, they must abide by the rules of the governing bodies of those events.

If the US had banned Soviet athletes from the 1984 Olympics, or if the USSR had banned Americans from the 1980 Olympics, or if Germany had banned anyone from the 1936 Olympics, that would be comparable to what Dubai did to Peer and other Israelis.

But you’re comparing two unlike things and asking why they are not considered the same, when they are plainly not the same at all.

MMT Says:

Dubai Duty Free, a government function of the civilian air transportation authority, manages the event, so there is a relationship of influence, as is evidenced by the swift reversal of the policy with regards to Ram.

Shan Says:

Re: Why didn’t Erlich & Ram pull out….

Players try not to mix politics with their sport.

Whether or not this happened last year, enough’s enough. Let’s stop the leak before it becomes a flood.

The ATP and WTA don’t need the UAE, tennis is resilient enough to do without them.

Henry Says:

To Colin & MMT
DDF (Dubai Duty Free) is a fully government owned operation and a subsidiary of the department of civil aviation. It’s all owned and run by the shame sheikh and family who also are the rulers of Dubai, an Emirate state, one of 7 states that comprise the UAE (United Arab Emirates)

To the others
In other words: the tournament is government run!!
Cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi need these high profile tournaments to show they offer more than just clusters of luxury sky scrapers. Therefore, the WTA players and WTA leadership should have sat down with the tournament prior to this whole thing blowing up. They could have and should have simply demanded Shahar Peer’s entry and threatened to otherwise not play. I promise you that the organization would have obliged on the spot. What the WTA and its players did is despicable with a ‘money-first-act-later’ attitude. Its leadership made hollow statements and meanwhile did absolutely nothing. Now the WTA tries to take some of the credit. For what?
The ATP was more clever and made no official statements prior to their efforts in trying to solve the Andy Ram case. They, the mounting outside pressure, worldwide outrage and then the American Congress took care of Dubai Duty Free finally realizing it was best to issue the visa. The Women’s Tour could have done the exact same thing. They could have quietly and gently put pressure on Dubai and solve things instead of showing surprise and outrage AFTER the fact

MMT Says:

Henry, I agree with you, that this decision was well within the realm of the government of the UAE – as I stated in my 2:36 post. And I also agree that the WTA should have boycotted the event. If it were really a player’s association or a union, as it was once envisioned, they would have banded together to beat back the discrimination of Peer. They didn’t, and I totally disagree with that inaction. But you hit the nail on the head – they all took the money and ran with it. Shame on them.

MMT Says:

Let me clarify that previous statement…I agree with you that getting Peer’s visa approved was well within the realm of the tournament, as they are run by a function of the UAE government.

Colin Says:

MMT, the comparison I was making was a moral one. The cry we’ve heard most of the last few days has been “keep politics out of sport”. Boycotting the Moscow Olympics was, surely, reversing the process and dragging sport into politics.
As I’ve said elsewhere on this forum, “politics” is far too mild a word for the the events that have characterised relations between Israel and the Arab countries. Anyway, we can’t have it both ways. It seems to be the same people who are calling for players to boycott Dubai, who have said sport and politics should be separate! But if players follow that line and ignore “politics”, then they WON’T boycott, will they?
As for these two guys being allowed in (Ram and the other fellow), isn’t it because they have passports from other countries than Israel? That may seem a feeble excuse, but since when have governments been sensible? To clarify my own position, I’d be perfectly happy if Dubai were dropped from the Tour… and Israel too!

Henry Says:


Clicked on your ‘MMT’ which brought me to your blog and blogpost of 16th February. Enjoyed very much reading it. You did some research there!

Yes, it’s really disgusting to read all these “me-too” statements with huge words by WTA, ITF, players like Venus and others without any concrete action. What’s really funny ( and sad at the same time) is that the Williams sisters have refused, for 8 whole years now (!!) to play at Indian Wells for an allegdly rascist happening after one of the sisters pulled out of the semis against the other. The rascism was never proven, but even if it were, they should show they’re above that and show up, if only for their fans. What’s even funnier ( and even more sad) is that the same WTA, taking the high road in Dubai and making all these statements about fines and sanctions hasn’t done a thing about the sister’s refusal. Any lower ranked player would have been fined or expelled. Double standards all the way. So, who is really discriminating? They should have stood behind Shahar Peer with action and I’m glad you agree.

Benjamin Says:

Rafael Nadal is out.
Roger Federer is out.
Nikolay Davydenko is out.
Fernando Verdasco is out.
Andy Roddick is out.

MMT Says:

“But if players follow that line and ignore “politics”, then they WON’T boycott, will they?”

Yes they will – they would not be boycotting the UAE’s politics and policy against granting Israeli’s visas. That is immaterial. If the UAE chose to host a tennis exhibition, unassociated with the ATP or WTA tour, open to anyone but Israeli’s, that would be their right. The merits of such a decision could be debated, but they would have violated no rules of the tour that they agreed to.

The issue is the tournament in Dubai agreeing to host a tournament, and then determining for themselves what rules they will follow and what rules they will not. This is neither fair to all other tournaments in the world, nor to individual players who have joined the WTA with the expectation that their rights a member of that organization will be upheld.

You are making a moral argument, the merits of which can be debated separately. But even when a moral decision is taken that violates the law, the justice of that stance is only vindicated if the offender accepts the legal consequences of their actions. In this case Dubai compounded their violation by citing as a reason something that is not accounted for in the rules.

As for the players and the WTA administration, their interest is in preventing any tournament from a country with a political dispute they deem to be above their obligation to follow the rules of the tour, from throwing the tour into an unmanageable mish-mosh of cases of discrimination against individuals from literally anywhere on the planet.

Belgrade banning Croats. Umag/Zagreb banning Serbs. Warsaw banning Germans and Russians. Anyone with a problem with US policies banning Americans. This is obviously not acceptable, and it is this that the players and the WTA should boycott, not the politics of the UAE policy to ban Israeli’s.

When the US hosts an international/olympic events, countries with whom they have no diplomatic relations participate – including Cuba, Iran and Libya. If a country’s Olympic committee chooses not to or cannot participate, that is within their rights to do so – there is no rule impelling a country to participate. But when individuals are discriminated against in violation of the rules of a competition that a country has agreed to host, that is incorrect and must be addressed immediately and severely, lest we wind up in the aforementioned quagmire.

This may be a moral question that can be debated, but the rules are very clear. Nobody put a gun to Dubai’s head when they agreed to the rules and then reneged on their obligations (which they took of their own free will), and the WTA should have cancelled the event immediately.

Sponsors Behaving Badly Says:

[…] Tennis’ Outrage Over Dubai — But Did This Happen Last Year Too? […]

Henry Says:


I fully understood what you were saying about the Olympics etc in your first post. However, I don’t think you can compare those situations. You had one very important point wrong though, which MMT and I pointed out: The tournament, being government run, was fully in on the whole thing and fully responsible for the refusal of Shahar Peer’s visa. They tried later to come up with some non-existent security threat for a reason and a wagonload of other BS.

With regard to your second post I am not sure I understand. Only a simple boycot threat would have already done the job for Peer and her visa. The boycot would never even have materialized as Dubai needs this tournament. The tournament organization would, therefore, have complied and we would have had a great tournament avoiding all the superficial outrage. When a tournament shows it’s making decision based on politics then what’s wrong with players showing union against this?

If you meant they should simply not have tournaments in the region I respectfully disagree. I am a firm believer sports can bring people together. So, if Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are willing to allow all players that ranking-wise qualify for participation, it’s great that the sport, we all love so much, is presented to as many regions in the world as possible. As you probably know the UAE is one of those regions where women still don’t really count that much, where you get thrown in jail for kissing on the beach and I can go on. Tennis and it’s free players could be part of bringing about change in perception and politics.

If you meant they should not have or sanction tournaments in countries where we don’t agree with its government or rulers, or for moral reasons as you say, or because they are warmongering then the USA under Bush should have had no tournament sanctions for at least six years….

MMT Says:

Thank you for the encouragement Henry – I do try to bring back tennis history whenever I can, and I enjoy writing about it. As they say, I’m old school. If it were up to me, they’d all still be playing with wood racquets :-)

grendel Says:

MMT – your logic is impeccable, and you have been proved entirely correct. I must say, I hadn’t been aware that the tournament was government run. That was kind of naive of me.

margot Says:

An excellent debate, without bad language, without dissing people you don’t know rather than their arguement and also really informative. Hooray!!

Haji Says:

Interesting that it took the X Meister to uncover more layers of this interesting event. The idea of the Israeli team boycotting the Dubai event to show support for Ms. Peer is most interesting.

The news of the protest in Auckland, NZ brings up an interesting event that happened in January 1990. Simon Louisson, a NZ journalist, wrote about a post-match press conference given by Amos Mansdorf, then no.1 Israeli tennis player. He intentionally doctored Mr. Mansdorf’s words to have it appear that Mansdorf was condoning the work of the Nazis.

When word got to the Israeli Knesset, Ms. Mansdorf was despondent and thought about retirement from the sport. Luckily, Fred Perry, the tennis great, was at the tournament and was able to convince Mansdorf to tough it out. He said that the fact that the Parliament was even discussing this showed how much they valued him as a person.

Luckily, there was an ATP Tour staffer who had previously worked at the Israel Tennis Center. She was among the ATP Tour staff in Auckland, and was able to communicate with Israeli tennis officials to give them more clarity of what was shared that day.

What Mansdorf said was that sports and politics don’t mix. It is up to sport to transcend politics. What is curious is that Mr. Louisson is Jewish and has a career that continues, as he recently ran a piece that ran on the Wall Street Journal web site.

It is much easier to incite then to have responsibility for consequences. Integrity can only be acquired over time, act by act.

This is not meant to slam anyone (bad tennis pun). It’s the old elementary school theory of once the toothpaste is out of the tube, how difficult it is to get it back into the tube. Once you release something, particularly via cyberspeed, no ‘I’m sorry’ can fully cover everything.

Peace, love, and understanding…

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