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Roger Federer bows out of Dubai

February 17, 2009 |  2:59 pm

Shahar Peer

Roger Federer has pulled out of next-month's Davis Cup series against the United States, according to his website, and will skip next week's men's tournament in Dubai as he recovers from a back injury.

Federer, who lost to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, said he did not have enough time to completely strengthen his back after hurting it last fall. He is taking the break as a precautionary measure.

Federer's absence is the latest blow for the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships -- the women are playing now, the men next week -- after the United Arab Emirates refused to grant a visa to Israeli player Shahar Peer, citing security concerns.

The WTA denounced the government's decision and warned that it might scratch the Dubai tournament from its schedule. The Tennis Channel, in protest, said it would not televise the event as scheduled. Peer was scheduled to play Anna Chakvetadze in this week's first round.

Here is the statement by network Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Solomon:

Tennis Channel regrets to inform our viewers and tennis fans that we are canceling our upcoming coverage of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships in Dubai, UAE, originally scheduled for this weekend.  Unfortunately the event will exclude a single player who has been blocked from entering the country due to her nationality.  This is despite her having qualified for the competition via her on-court performance and current ranking.  Tennis Channel recognizes that this exclusion has been made by state authorities and neither the tour nor tournament directors themselves.  However we also honor the role and proud tradition that tennis has always played as a driving force for inclusion both on and off the courts.  Preventing an otherwise qualified athlete from competing on the basis of anything other than merit has no place in tennis or any other sport, and has the unfortunate result of undermining the credibility of the very nature of competition itself.

The Wall Street Journal today joined the protest by pulling its sponsorship.

Meanwhile, on the courts in Dubai today, Venus and Serena Williams both advanced, setting the stage for a potential semifinal showdown. Serena struggled early on against Sara Errani, but rallied to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. It took Venus less than an hour to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-1.

-- Debbie Goffa

Photo: Shahar Peer. Credit: Andrew Brownbill / Associated Press