The future of the two million dollar Dubai Open may be at risk after Shahar Peer was prevented from competing in the event which started on Sunday.
The world number 48 from Israel has been denied a visa into the Gulf state, bringing a strongly worded statement from the Women’s Tennis Association, which runs the women’s tour.
The blocking of Peer is a surprise because she was given a visa to play in the Qatar Open in Doha last year, a visit which was a considerable success both in tennis and diplomatic terms.
But the change in relations between Israel and neighbouring states, following the recent Gaza conflict, is almost certainly the reason for a change of attitude in the United Arab Emirates.
Last year there was talk of two other Israeli players, Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram, taking part in Dubai.
“We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denying Shahar Peer a visa that would permit her to enter the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships,” said Andrew Walker, the Vice-president of global marketing at the WTA.
“Ms Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it is regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right.
“Following various consultations, the Tour has decided to allow the tournament to continue to be played this week, pending further review by the Tour's board of directors.
"Ms. Peer and her family are obviously extremely upset and disappointed by the decision of the UAE and its impact on her personally and professionally, and the Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament.
“The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking.”
Colm McLoughlin, the managing director of Dubai Duty Free, the owners and organisers of the tournament, declined to comment.