on valentine’s day weekend, some love for shahar peer



We’re glad that the folks behind the Dubai Tennis Championships made sure to get a visa for Shahar Peer for this year’s tournament. You may remember all the flack they received after carelessly letting her papers for entry into the United Arab Emirates slip, causing the top Israeli player to sit out the event.

Peer pressure: But thanks to those who rallied around Shahar last year — the Wall Street Journal withdrew its sponsorship, Tennis Channel canceled its coverage, the SEWTA slapped the event with a $300k fine, Andy Roddick backed out of the men’s tourney in Dubai, and defending champ Venus Williams made her 2010 contingent on whether Shahar would be able to play — Shahar’s facing Yanina Wickmayer in the first round.

FYI, she’s getting no special security detail for her time in Dubai. Here’s hoping it all ends well.

Draw: Shahar’s half of the draw includes top seed (and world No. 3) Caroline Wozniacki, Venus, Na Li, and Elena Dementieva. The rest of the top eight — Jankovic, Azarenka, Aggie Radwanska, and second seed Sveta Kuznetsova — are in the other half. (Draw: Women’s singles.)

trophy watch: surf, sand, and sun



In Acapulco, both Nicolas Almagro and Flavia Pennetta made it to the finals — like they did last year, but only one of them defended their title.

Almagro upset Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4 — revenge from their heated third-round Australian Open match, perhaps? And Pennetta bowed out to Venus Williams in just over an hour. The 6-1, 6-2 win gives Venus her second title in as many weeks.

Fish schools Korolev: The tennis pedigree (he’s Anna Kournikova‘s cousin) didn’t quite help Evgeny Korolev maintain trend at the Delray Beach ITC: up until Mardy Fish‘s 7-5, 6-3 win on Sunday, the tournament’s top seeds had never taken the title.

Last man standing? If Nole didn’t end up bringing home this boat from Dubai, it would’ve been pretty sad. The other top guys — Roger, Rafa, Andys Murray and Roddick — all dropped out for various reasons. Thankfully, he lived up to the challenge and beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-3.

i want to wrestle andy murray…



…to the ground and give him a proper haircut.

Scoreline: As the second seed at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Murray beat Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-3 and will face Richard Gasquet in the quarters.

(image via Getty Images)

all quiet on the eastern front



There’s enough to deal with: In light of all this Shahar Peer and Sweden vs. Israel Davis Cup madness, you better believe we’re glad that we’ve heard nary a peep about Marin Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic‘s first-round match in Dubai. (Tensions ran high at Serbia-Croatia matches at the Australian Open…)

Scoreline: The Fila-clad Slavs needed to go three sets to decide a winner; Cilic took it 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 to reach the second round, where he’ll face Julien Benneteau. They’re all in the top half of the draw along with top seed Nole Djokovic.

(photos via Getty Images)

in dubai, marat continues to sputter



Writing the epilogue: The unpredictable career of Marat Safin has reached some consistency now that he’s steered himself toward retirement sunset.

At this week’s Barclay’s Dubai Tennis Championships, the eighth seed — bumped up by the absence of the injured Federer (back), Nadal (knee), Davydenko (ankle), Verdasco(ankle), and Roddick (Dubai slapped him in the face).

Too bad he fell in three sets — 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 — to Richard Gasquet.

“I struggled in the beginning with the serve, especially, and returns from the baseline, but I started to get used to it and I started to get better and better,” Safin said. “But unfortunately, it’s a lack of confidence and I didn’t play for a long time after Australia. I played in Marseille, and it’s my second match.”

Meanwhile, after giving his neck a little breather, Marat’s back in business with his charms. Is that the imperial crown?!

Scoreline: Djokovic and Murray are doing just fine in Dubai. We’re expecting these top two seeds to face each other at Sunday’s final.

(photo via Getty Images)