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Venus salutes Peer in Dubai victory speech

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 10:47 AM

DUBAI – Venus Williams raced to her 40th career crown on Saturday, but ensured that the raging Shahar Peer controversy was not forgotten during her Dubai Open title celebrations.

Venus salutes Peer in Dubai victory speechVenus Williams of the US holds her trophy after beating France's Virginie Razzano in the final match

Williams told a packed crowd that it was "a shame that one of our players couldn't be here", in a direct reference to the United Arab Emirates' widely-condemned decision to refuse to grant Israeli player Peer a visa.

"I thought she had to be mentioned and I felt I was going to, whether anyone else did or not," said Wimbledon champion Williams, when it was remarked that she was the only one at the prize-giving ceremony to recall what had happened.

"I had the opportunity because I had the microphone. I thought how brave she (Peer) was to come over here, to play in Doha (last year), and suddenly here not (allowed to).

"I thought of Althea Gibson who was excluded," she continued referring to the woman who overcame discrimination and exclusion to become Wimbledon's first black champion in 1957.

"She played and I thought of people who stood up and played with her when no-one else would.

"My dad grew up in a place where if you spoke too much, it was your life. I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone would listen.

"It also made me think of all the people who gave something for me to be here. I am not hear to rock the boat or upset anyone - I'm just here to try to do what's right, to represent what's right, and I think the right things will happen next week on the men's tour.

"I think a lot of that was because of what Shahar went through, because everyone cared."

"I feel confident everyone will have the opportunity to play next year. If that wasn't the case then we would evaluate but everyone has had the opportunity to do the right thing," she said referring to the visa given to Andy Ram, another Israeli to play in the men's ATP event here next week.

Williams, who eased past France's Virginie Razzano 6-4, 6-2 to win the Dubai title, was also referring to the host of penalties announced by the WTA on Friday to punish the tournament for the Peer affair.

Organisers were hit with a record 300,000-dollar fine and told to post a two-million-dollar guarantee to ensure various conditions of entry were met for the 2010 tournament.

"Some wrong decisions were made but let's hope they were made for the right reasons," said Venus. "Let's hope we will move on."

Despite the women's tournament ending on Saturday, there was no sign of the controversy disappearing.

Dubai Open tournament director Salah Tahlak said that there were doubts over whether or not an apology would be made to 21-year-old Peer.

"We would not say we are sorry. We have done our best. It is not our responsibility to issue a visa. It is other departments' responsibility," said Tahlak.

"We should not mix politics with sport. We are purely sport. We have done a lot for tennis in the region."

Tahlak said he was not sure whether or not an apology would be made by the tournament to Peer. He also denied any errors of judgement had been made.

Commenting on his statement on Tuesday that Peer's visa had been denied for security reasons, he said: "Whatever reason was given last week, we had our reasons. Maybe then it was still fresh what happened in Gaza and we made that very clear in the statement."

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