Ram granted UAE visa

By Danny Caro, February 19, 2009

Doubles specialist Andy Ram has been granted a visa by the United Arab Emirates to play in the Dubai Championships.

There were fears that he would be denied access after compatriot Shahar Peer was banned from this week's women's tournament as organisers were concerned for her safety in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

But her exclusion was immediately condemned by the Women’s Tennis Association and fellow players while one of the tournament sponsors, Wall Street Journal Europe, withdrew their backing.

A UAE foreign ministry official said that Ram “would be given special permission to take part. “This does not politically imply any form of normalisation with countries with which the UAE has no diplomatic relations.”

There were fears that if Ram was also excluded, it could plunge the sport into chaos.

Reacting to the decision, Ram said: "I am pleased that the UAE have today confirmed that I will be able to travel to their country. 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."

ATP president and executive chairman Adam Helfant said: "United Arab Emirates government has made the right decision. No player who qualifies to play an ATP World Tour event should be denied their right to compete on the basis of ethnicity, nationality or religion and we are happy that the Dubai Tennis Championships and the UAE have shown that they share that view."

Peer commented: "This is a great victory for the principle that all athletes should be treated equally, regardless of gender, religion, race or nationality. It is also a victory for sport as a whole."

Last updated: 12:56pm, February 20 2009