Israeli player Shahar Peer made her historic debut this week at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. After being denied a visa into the United Arab Emirates prior to last year’s event, she’s making the most of the opportunity so far. She’s scored victories over Yanina Wickmayer and Virginie Razzano in her first two rounds and will play a popcorn Round of 16 match vs. Caroline Wozniacki, the tournament’s top seed.
Shahar Peer’s coach, Pablo Giacopelli, is writing a blog from Dubai this week for the iTUSA Tennis Academy. He’s been coaching Peer since November 2008 and was the person who broke the news to her when her visa was denied last year. That experience – coupled with Peer’s strong start to 2009 – explains why he seems so excited by the experience this week. A positive attitude is likely keeping him sane, too, considering some of the surreal security measures that have been required during their trip.
From his blog:
“We are leaving tonight for Dubai where I have heard over 25 bodyguards are waiting for us. It is going to be a very interesting week coming up. Shahar is very excited about going but at the same time she is also aware of the risks that are present. We have been reassured by the tournament that all is taken care of. We are going there in peace and with a real desire to do well on the tennis court.“
Upon their arrival in Dubai:
“I am updating you all as we have now finally arrived in Dubai. We were met by 8 bodyguards outside the gate who ten joined forces with another four. They have been rotated since we arrived so I guess there is probably around 20 plus assigned to us…Barack Obama eat your heart out…J
“I must admit that I felt like James Bond and not a coach on the women’s tour. Our passports were taken and our bags collected as we took a back route out of the airport. Then we were handed our passports and bags and taken to the convoy of vehicles that were waiting for us with more people.
“We each went to our different hotels and then met at the club at the specific court that Shahar can play on and practice. I hope you understand that for security reasons I cant give you much info or detail, as I would be putting the whole operation at risk.”
Pablo sets the scene before Peer’s first round match vs. Wickmayer as she became the first Israeli sportswoman to compete in the U.A.E.:
“I met Shahar this morning for her match at the club at 10. She warmed up in small garden where all the players warm up with 21 bodyguards around. We had military police today as well. We then moved to our pre-assigned court where we met our partner and warmed up for the customary half an hour.
And the news from Tuesday, including laughs with the 25 security guards:
Hello everyone once again!
Day three of the tournament went well for us once again. Shahar played her second round against last years finalist Virginie Razzano and defeated her 6-2 and 6-2.
The day began with the customary warm up and this time I hit with Shahar and made sure she did everything she wanted and felt she needed to do. Afterwards she was taken to her own locker room to get ready and concentrate for her match. During this time we talked with the bodyguards about the cultural differences that exist between them and the Israelis and we had a few laughs, which was nice to keep the atmosphere cool and relaxed before she went in to play.
I must say that all 25 bodyguards are very nice people and I have enjoyed meeting all of them and spending time with them. At 11 am Shahar entered the court and played a very clean and tidy match and built very well on the momentum she has begun to generate since the beginning of the year. Her tennis was very well executed and to be honest it could have been 6-2 and 6-0 should the opponent not stopped the match for a medical time out which I felt affected Shahars rhythm somewhat.
After the match I congratulated her and then rushed away to watch the match between Carolina Wozniacki, whom we play tomorrow, and Dominika Civulkova. This part of my job is very important as it helps me to put together a match tactic for Shahar that is not based on feelings or guessing but instead on facts that I have been able to see with my own eyes. Of course I know most of the girls anyways but it is always good to keep the facts up to date. During the match I chatted with Venus Williams hitting partner and it was great as we had a very good laugh.
The day finished with a doubles that Shahar and Galina lost in the final tiebreak. It was very close and Shahar played very well again so I am hopeful for tomorrows match even though Shahar has never beaten Carolina before.
It will be great for this momentum to continue and of course as we all know it will add to the already confident mood she is in and gives yet another push to break into the top 20 once again.
See you tomorrow.
It will be interesting to follow Peer’s progress this year with Pablo, but as they always say, “one match at a time!”
I’ve linked to Pablo Giacopelli’s insider blog from the Dubai Championships with permission from the iTUSA Tennis Academy. You can follow more from Coach Pablo here. And to learn more about the iTUSA, click here.