The United Arab Emirates has refused to grant a visa to a female Israeli tennis player, preventing her from competing in the Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association Tour in Dubai, the WTA said in a statement Sunday.
Shahar Peer would have been the first Israeli athlete to participate in a professional sporting event in the UAE, CNN Sports Correspondent Pedro Pinto said.
The governing body of women's tennis said it was ''deeply disappointed'' that Peer was being denied entry to the country hosting the tournament, but it did not cancel the competition.
The move runs counter to WTA policy, which says no player should be barred from competing in a tournament for which she has qualified.
Dubai could lose its WTA membership next year over the ban on Shahar, according to the governing body's rules.
That would mean professional players could compete only in exhibition matches, the results of which would not count in pro rankings.
''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 Larry Scott, chairman and chief executive of the tour.
''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,'' WTA chief Scott said.
The Dubai Tennis Championships began Sunday. The tournament patron is Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Makhtoum. Two million dollars in prize money is on the line.
Peer, 21, is ranked 48th in the world among female tennis players. She was allowed to compete at the Doha tournament in Qatar last year.
''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,'' Scott said.
''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.''