Swedish captain fears home crowd in Davis Cup tie
By The Associated Press
Sweden captain Mats Wilander is expecting a vocal crowd this weekend when his team faces Israel in the first round of the Davis Cup.
Last weekend, the fans at the Ramat Hasharon Tennis Center briefly got to Maria Sharapova by imitating her grunting. Sharapova still won her Fed Cup debut match, however, and Russia eventually beat Israel to reach the semifinals.
"They raise their game when they are playing in front of their crowd," Wilander said yesterday. "I think all five matches can be won or lost. I think the score could be 5-0 or 0-5 or 3-2."
The best-of-five series starts with Friday's singles. The doubles will be played Saturday, and the reverse singles are set for Sunday.
Israel's team includes Dudi Sela, Harel Levy, Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, while Sweden will be represented by 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johannson, Jonas Bjorkman, Simon Aspelin and Filip Prpic.
"I think our players know that they are considered both as underdogs and also as favorites," Israel captain Eyal Ran said.
"This is going to be a very difficult tie. We are going to do the maximum we can to win, and I hope the players will be on top of their games."
Israel reached the World Group by beating Chile in last year's playoffs.
"Of course we know the Israeli team is very strong after beating Chile and I also know it's a big two weeks for Israeli tennis with the Fed Cup," Wilander said. "So I know everyone is very excited, which is good for them, I guess. But we have a very experienced team, and we have been in this situation before."
Sweden has won seven Davis Cup titles, the last in 1998.