Friday, June 29, 2007

Jewish-Muslim doubles trouble: skirting the issues at Wimbledon

Tensions in the Middle East reverberate even on the green grass of Wimbledon. When a Jew doubles up with a Muslim to take on all comers, the world must acknowledge that such cooperation is possible. Beneficial, even.
Shaha Pe'er, a strapping 20-year-old Israeli pro with a big backhand is set to play ball with her new partner, Sania Mirza, a Muslim from Hyderabad in Southern India.

Controversy is nothing new to feisty Sania Mirza, also 20. For years, she has been criticized for "playing half-naked" on the court in skimpy clothes that leave "nothing to the imagination".
She's had to overcome traditional attitudes about women's comportment in South Asia. Inside India and Pakistan, female tennis players used to compete on hardcourts finished with dried cowdung, clad in the traditional baggy pants and tunic, Shalwar Kameez. But Mirza is a pro athlete with a strategy for victory. And partnering with the higher-ranked Pe'er (pictured here) is a clever move.

Mirza (above) and Pe'er now are seeded 16th in the grass court championship, and prefer to concentrate on winning tactics rather than religion. Let's hope they advance in the tournament with nothing to worry about other than their opponents.

According to a wire story from Reuters,

The last time Mirza, a Muslim, joined forces with Pe'er at the 2005 Japan Open, their association was short-lived.
Under pressure from militants furious over a Muslim and a Jew playing together, Mirza called for some time out.
She hopes their second stab at success will be remembered more for their on-court exploits.
"We've grown up together. We're great friends. So we said, why not?" said Mirza, who comes from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

The other Israeli woman player at Wimbledon is Anna Smashnova, a determined little baseliner whose family immigrated from Belarus. Her wonderfully apt surname, Smashnova, is more remarked upon than her citizenship. But the 30-year-old did not quite live up to her name this year: she was routed 6-0, 6-0 in the first round by a German powerhouse player, Martina Mueller.


Miss Welby said...

ciao, nice blog, visit mine

Red Bull said...

Good to see you didn't 'skirt the issue', as you say.

Izzy Bee said...

Sadly, the dynamic duo was defeated in the third round.
Here's more about Peer from the Guardian, fyi:

Mirza and Peer's reunion got off to a good start here when they beat Sofia Arvidsson and Lilia Osterloh 7-5, 6-3 and today they face Agnes Szavay and Vladimira Uhlirova in the round of 32 on Court Nine. A lengthy run would do nicely for Peer, who shortly after parting with Mirza was drafted into the Israel Defence Forces to undertake two years of national service, which is compulsory for Jewish women over the age of 18. She was awarded "outstanding athlete" status but, when not competing, the Jerusalem-born Peer still performs her duties as an administrative secretary in the mornings before linking up with her coach, Oded Teig, in the afternoons.

"In Israel there is not one person you can say my name to without them knowing who I am," says Peer. "Wherever I go with my friends and my family they know me, so I don't have too much time for myself when I'm home."

Peer has risen to No16 in the world and is currently ranked 13th in the qualifying list for the lucrative end-of-season WTA Sony Ericsson Championships in Madrid. But only the top eight players qualify, meaning she is unlikely to make it this year, and from 2008 the tournament moves to Doha. Like other Gulf states, Doha does not recognise Israel and there have been suggestions that Peer would be banned from attending it - despite this successful relationship with her Muslim partner.