Venus Williams returns a shot against Shahar Peer of Israel...

Venus Williams returns a shot against Shahar Peer of Israel during her women's singles match on day seven of the 2010 U.S. Open. (Sept. 5, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

It was luck that put Venus Williams and Shahar Peer in the same quarter of the draw at the U.S. Open. It was success in the three previous rounds that put them together at Arthur Ashe Stadium Sunday afternoon. It was fate, it seems, that has linked their lives.

Williams won a spirited battle, beating Peer, 7-6 (3), 6-3, in a match that was more competitive than the scoreline. Peer went toe-to-toe with Williams, slugging it out with one of the game's biggest hitters, but lost.

Williams and Peer have met four times this year, beginning in Dubai, and that's where their lives intersected so fatefully beginning in February 2009.

Dubai, an Arab state, had denied Peer, an Israeli, a visa to participate in the WTA Tour event there last year. Williams came out in support of Peer, the only women's player to speak in public about it, and when Williams won the Dubai tournament, she told the crowd in her victory speech that "it was a shame that one of our players couldn't be here."

The WTA announced that the tournament would not be sanctioned again unless all players were granted visas to play, and authorities gave Peer a visa this year, though because of what they called security concerns, she was forced to play on an outside court and remain in her hotel when not at the tournament site. She met Williams in the semifinals on the outside court, with Williams winning.

"She was really supportive of me and she was always on my side and really always stood up," Peer said Sunday. "Doesn't matter if it was this year or the year before when I didn't get the visa, she stood up in that final and spoke for me."

For Williams, there was no question about supporting Peer's right to play and being open about it. "We have a certain special history together," Williams said. "I know she would have done the same thing for me or any other player."

Peer, the 19th-ranked player in the world and the 16th seed here, is the best player to come out of Israel and gets generous support here in New York.

The first set was highly competitive as the pair alternated breaks of serve for four straight games, but Williams held for a 6-5 lead, then won the first three points on Peer's serve, giving her three set points. Peer fought them off and the game went to deuce eight times before Peer won it, sending the set to a tiebreak. Williams won that easily, 7-3. Williams broke Peer's serve three times in the second set, the final break giving her the match.

Peer doesn't often get to play on the feature court, and when she was shunted outside in Dubai this year, it wasn't a big deal for her, not even when she played Williams. "It was not difficult because I'm not a person that used to play always in center court," she said. "When we play on an outside court, she was very humble. It's hard for me to say in English, but she's always very supportive. She always feel for me, you know. She understands what I feel."

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