Shahaar Peer, a 20-year-old Israeli tennis player, made diplomatic history on Monday when she stepped on the court at the 2.5 million dollar Qatar Open, despite an unofficial boycott which has kept Israeli players from competing in the Gulf states.
The 12th-seeded Peer defeated Slovenia's Andreja Klepac 6-3, 6-4 in the first round match in which they struggled to hold serve in front of a small crowd of about 50 people.
Despite the empty stands, Peer, who comes from Occupied Jerusalem, said she was given a warm welcome by people in Doha.
"I'm here to play tennis," she said earlier. "But if this opens up a window for the younger generation, with Arabs and Israelis working together for peace, I'd be happy."
The six Arabian Gulf countries do not recognize Israel, but Qatar maintains low-level ties to the Jewish state and is bidding for the 2016 Olympics, about which a decision will be made next year.
Qatar is home to Israel's only diplomatic mission in the Gulf – a trade mission. Shimon Peres, then Israeli deputy prime minister, visited Qatar in January last year and met with its ruler.
Peer apparently wanted to compete here before, but was doing her military service and Israel bans its soldiers from visiting Arab countries.
Despite this, Peer is one of the few players on the women's circuit who speaks some Arabic, which she studied briefly in school, and who does not let religion or politics hold her back.
In the past she has played doubles with India's Sania Mirza, a Muslim whose cosmopolitan attitudes have upset some Islamic clerics and who has since decided it is impossible to compete in her home country.