Indian Wells:Israel's Shahar Peer, whose exclusion from the WTA Dubai Open unleashed a storm of controversy, was back in business in the best possible way - with a win.
Peer cruised into the second round of the 4.5 million-dollar BNP Paribas Open with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko.
She needed just 54 minutes on court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to dispatch Bondarenko and book a second-round meeting with 10th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France - and on the court was right where Peer wanted to be.
"I'm a professional tennis player, I want to play," said Peer, whose period of enforced idleness ended with a first-round loss at the Monterrey Open last week.
Peer said she felt "angry and sad" last month when she was denied a visa to the United Arab Emirates and thus missed the two million-dollar Dubai Open.
"If you put politics to one side, it was bad for me because I was playing very good," said Peer, who reached the semi-finals at Pattay City and quarter-finals at Auckland earlier this year before winning two singles matches in Israel's loss to Ukraine in the Fed Cup.
"To have two and a half weeks with nothing, it's hard."
But Peer said she had been buoyed by the outpouring of support she had received from around the world and from WTA.
The WTA fined the tournament 300,000 dollars and insisted organizers post a two million-dollar guarantee by July insuring that several other conditions will be met.
They include confirmation of written assurances that all players who qualify shall be allowed, regardless of nationality or any other reason, to play and be given visas.
Israelis must be given proof of an UAE entry permit at least eight weeks in advance, and Peer must be offered a wild card entry if she does not qualify by ranking.
Peer said she was satisfied with the outcome, especially with the fact that compatriot Andy Ram received his visa to compete in the men's Dubai Open a week after the women's tournament.
Switzerland's Roger Federer, the 13-time Grand Slam champion who maintains a training base in Dubai, said the whole incident should never have happened.
"I think in sports it shouldn't happen anymore in this day and age," he said of the intrusion of politics into the sports world. "I hope in the future you won't have this kind of problem. I was happy that Andy Ram was able to play the next week."
Peer said the controversy hadn't soured her on the idea of competing in Dubai.
"I will really look forward for that," she said of playing there. "It's a great tournament, and I really hope I'm going to go there next year."
Her first order of business, however, is in the California desert, where the field includes defending champion Ana Ivanovic and fellow Serbian Jelena Jankovic. Top-seeded Dinara Safina leads a group of Russian contenders that includes Olympic champion Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and last year's runner-up, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Former world number one Maria Sharapova will test her long-injured right shoulder by playing doubles.
In other matches yesterday, Australian Open darling Jelena Dokic was bundled out of the first round by US veteran Jill Craybas 6-4, 6-2.
Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova booked a second-round clash with Safina, beating New Zealand's Marina Erakovic 6-4, 6-1.
First-round play in the Men's Masters series gets underway today, although it won't be until the weekend that top seed Rafael Nadal of Spain and second-seeded Roger Federer swing into action.