In the end Shahar Peer’s fervent determination to prove her point that sport and politics should not mix produced a noble effort but it was not sufficient to unsettle somebody she reveres as a true legend of tennis.
Peer had collected an impressive array of scalps as she moved into the semi-final; world no 3 Caroline Wozniacki, Australian Open semi-finalist Li Na and the controversial young Belgian Yanina Wickmayer who was initially banned from tennis for a year after missing drug tests but returned courtesy of her lawyers to win her first tournament back in Auckland.
All that counted for nothing as Williams, so supportive a year ago when the Israeli was denied the necessary visa for entrance into the United Arab Emirates, staged an initial onslaught of aggression that effectively intimidated Peer for the entirety of the first set.
Within just 22 minutes Williams was a set to the good with Peer’s serve broken three times in succession. Getting through to the finals depends so much on mental toughness and it suddenly seemed that so much of the 22 year-old’s had been spent dealing with the issues of the last week.
“I have to say that I was really focused on the match,” maintained the third seeded victor. “Really focused on trying to win. I definitely started well, and I felt like I was playing very aggressively and just basically taking a lot of time away from her.”
Things changed a little in the second set and Peer began to show the fighting qualities that had been so prevalent all week. She fought back from an initial two game deficit and then warded off five Williams break points in a marathon game that featured nine deuces and last almost as long as the opening set.
Williams certainly appeared to be tiring under the sweltering sun but finally Peer hit two impetuous forehands that proved costly, giving the experienced American the break that proved crucial.
“I’m sure I will learn and benefit from this experience,” insisted Peer. “This time last year I remember being at home in Israel watching Venus win the final. This week I have beaten some really good players and had to deal with a lot of things. I am really happy with the way I came through it and now I hope to come back next year.”
Now, that's Hasbara.
Israel and its supporters spend so much time being on the defensive, but Shahar Peer shows how it should be done. Unapologetically fight for your principles, take all of the obstacles as mere bumps in the road and ignore all the distractions.