Deadline for UAE Decision: Friday
Contrary to Bloomberg’s report today, the United Arab Emirates government has not issued any formal playing papers to Israeli Andy Ram – yet. Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York may, in fact, be correct and have inside info. But he might also have popped off too soon. Several parties intimately involved in the Ram-Dubai drama told me Wednesday that no official word on Ram's visa allowing him to compete in Dubai next week had been granted.
ATP spokesman Kris Dent (uncharacteristically) did not return my emails or calls seeking comment. But two other well-placed sources inside and outside the men’s tour with knowledge of the situation old me that the issue was still pending. Ram’s lawyer, Amit Naor, also confirmed that no deal had been struck. “The only thing I know is that the ATP is putting a lot of pressure,” Naor said by telephone Wednesday. “The rest is guessing.”
Because Ram was born in Uruguay, I wondered if he could get around the controversy by using a different passport. Some Israelis with dual citizenship have been able to travel to Dubai. But Naor told me that Ram doesn’t carry that passport and isn’t even sure if it’s valid. He said it was a non-issue and if the doubles specialist enters Dubai it will be on his Israeli passport.
Meantime, a showdown looms. Several of the tour’s top officials were scheduled to jet off to Dubai in the next 12 hours, among them executive chairman Adam Helfant (talk about baptism by fire), international group CEO Brad Drewett, and board rep Justin Gimelstob. I’m told the ATP has given UAE officials a deadline of Friday afternoon to come to a decision so as not to create the same last-minute chaos that Peer’s rejection did (she was already in the draw).
Across the aisle at the WTA, the continued fallout from Peer’s denial has been swift and severe. Jewish leaders have called for the WTA to punish the UAE and Sweden, fearing more reprisals, will play to an empty stadium when it takes on Israel in Davis Cup next month in Malmo. And if the ATP doesn’t have enough on its plate, ripples from the Stanford fraud case could soon hit the tour. For two other good pieces on the ongoing controversy, check out Matt Cronin's piece on tennisreporters.net and Bonnie D. Ford's critique on ESPN.com.