By Ken Miller, Lawn Tennis Correspondent, Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 6:28pm PST USA
AUCKLAND--(lawntennismag.com) Often fiery and determined on the tennis court, Shahar Peer of Israel has refused to grant requests for her withdrawal from this week's ASB Classic at Auckland, New Zealand.
Under extra security escort Wednesday, the 21 year old Peer ignored the protests and then proceeded to defeat Barbora Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in a second round singles match.
Due to her homecountry's current conflict and war with Gaza, a local New Zealand group, Peace and Justice Auckland sent Peer a letter asking for her withdrawal from the WTA Tour tournament as part of an international boycott of Israel.
The group revealed that no response had been received from Peer and that they planned to protest once again outside her quarterfinal match Thursday.
“On the eve of the tournament last Sunday evening we wrote to Shahar requesting she respect international calls for a comprehensive boycott of Israel and withdraw from the tournament,” Peace and Justic leader John Minto said.
Peer, ranked 39th in the WTA Tour world rankings, however remanded adamant that she was in the Asia/Pacific region as a tennis player and not as a spokesperson for Israel.
Shahar Peer of Israel
Shahar Peer said last year she “can't play Dubai” at the WTA Tour's Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships held annually in February at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“I have nothing to do with this,” she said. “I’m Shahar Peer. I came here to play tennis. I know I’m from Israel and I’m proud of my country and that playing tennis is what I’m going to do tomorrow.”
Last year Peer made tennis history as the first WTA Tour player to compete in a professional tennis tournament the Arab region as she entered the Qatar Total Open at Doha, Qatar in February of 2007. Doha, the capital city of Qatar, mounted a strong bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, but was eliminated in June of last year.
Peer also said last year she “can't play Dubai” at the WTA Tour's Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships held annually in February at Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai has the largest population of any emirate in the Persian Gulf with more than 1,241,000 citizens. The former oil mecca has in more modern times repositioned itself as a financial and entertainment capital with holdings that include the world's tallest's hotel as well as the world's tallest building.
Reached for comment the WTA Tour said Peer's absence from their annual Dubai tournament stemmed from Peer's “passport.” Several Middle Eastern countries reportedly refuse entry to individuals whose passports have Israeli stamps.
Peer has won three WTA Tour career singles titles and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the US Open in 2007.