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Posted: Wednesday February 25, 2009 12:01PM; Updated: Thursday February 26, 2009 8:28AM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
TENNIS MAILBAG

The Peer-Dubai fallout rages on

Story Highlights

Andy Roddick's stand and the WTA's response were good reactions to Dubai flap

Who has a better chance of winning all four Slams this year, Serena or Nadal?

Brad Gilbert responds to Wertheim's comments on Federer's coaching needs

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Defending Dubai champion Andy Roddick opted to skip this year's tournament in a quiet protest of Shahar Peer's visa denial.
AP
Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
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For obvious reasons, L'Affaire Shahar Peer and the aftermath dominated the questions last week. I'm thinking the most efficient way to do this is take a few of the recurrent themes in order:

1) Andy Roddick: He doesn't want any praise for his stand? Too bad. For all the hand-wringing and "on the one hand; on the other hand" equivocating, Roddick stood tallest. He's the defending champ in Dubai and yet he pulls out, citing the visa controversy. Political expediency would dictate that he blame a groin injury or travel fatigue or the logistics and move on. Instead, he makes a quick, forceful statement -- nothing grandstanding or attention-seeking -- and goes on his way.

2) I agree with many of you that it would have been nice if at least one WTA player had boycotted. That said, I don't think you can rip the players too much. The rank and file were already in the United Arab Emirates and out of pocket the travel costs; the stars had been paid appearance fees. Peer was consulted and said she wanted the show to go on.

3) Put in an exceptionally ugly position -- yes, partially of their own doing -- the WTA responded admirably. The organization backed up the tough talk by levying a fine on the event and making a public ultimatum. Peer was "made whole" with respect to rankings points and prize money. We'll say it again: If only Larry Scott had been captaining the ship during the WTA glory years.

4) One of you raised an interesting point about the ATP, sharing culpability. If there had been a men's tournament that had denied James Blake a visa on the basis of his race and a women's event in the same venue the following week, wouldn't one expect the WTA to feel pressure to cancel its event? As it was, once the ATP secured a visa for Andy Ram -- are we sure he was allowed entry based on his Israeli passport and not one of the others he holds? -- and men's tennis was off the hook.

5) There seemed to me something particularly cowardly about the UAE's behavior here. First they wait until the last possible minute until denying Peer's visa. Then, instead of claiming this was in protest to Israeli policy or the Gaza offensive, there's nonsense about security concerns. (What is this, Sweden?) Then a few days later, the country reverses course and assures that an Israeli male player will be given a visa.

While the overwhelming majority of you expressed outrage over this, and support of Peer, more than a few of you likened this to the South African boycott over apartheid. Personally, I don't buy the analogy, but reasonable people can disagree. The real issue is that a tournament that had given the WTA assurances that all players would be welcome went back on its word. For all sorts of reasons -- from social justice to avoid a slippery slope -- tennis had to react forcefully. And fortunately the sport showed a real collective conscience and will last week.

Who has a better chance of winning all four Slams this year: Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal?
-- Stefan, Kingston, Jamaica

Nice question. Inevitably, two winners emerge from Australia and the question becomes: Can either win the Grand Slam? This year, I think we have two strong candidates. Simply put, Serena is a contender -- if not a favorite -- to win every major she enters. She may not be at her best on clay but a) she has won Paris before and b) with no Justine Henin, a floundering defending champ, her aura perhaps at all-time high, she has as good a chance as anyone. And while she still needs to beat Venus at Wimbledon, those matches are seldom about the tennis. I put her odds at, say, 4-to-1. (Keep in mind, too, if she wins in Paris and Wimbledon, she'll have bagged her second straight "Serena Slam.")

I give Nadal similar odds. He is the defending champion at the French and Wimbledon, of course. Then the question becomes: Does he have enough left to win a second hard-court major? Historically, Nadal's results tail off in August, all that wear and tear on his body finally starts exacting a price on his results. As always, the X-factor here is health. But if his body cooperates, he has a real chance.

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