Tennis has been in the news lately for the way Israeli players were excluded by Arab tournament hosts. But this week the tables were turned on the Israel-haters.
This past weekend Israel played Sweden in the Davis Cup — the international tournament in which teams of the best male players from each country compete — with the match held in Malmo, Sweden. The Israelis were underdogs against the more powerful Swedes, especially considering the latter had the home court advantage. That edge, however, was nullified thanks to the prejudice against Israel on the part of the host country. The Swedish tennis authorities had the match played with only 300 special invitees in attendance, rather than in a packed stadium full of partisan Swedish supporters as one might have expected.
The reason was that the Swedes caved in to threats from anti-Israel groups who were protesting the appearance of representatives of the Jewish State. While tennis is one of the few sports in which decorum is required of the spectators, Davis Cup competitions are usually the exception to that rule. Home crowds often provide inspiration to their own team and while intimidating their opponents. But not this time. The antiseptic atmosphere of the draw vitiated any advantage that the Swedes might have had from playing at home. The result: a startling upset with Israel winning the draw 3-2.
This victory puts the Israelis into the Davis Cup quarter-finals for only the second time in history (the other time they got this far was 1987). They are scheduled to play Russia in July. The Russians have some of the best players in the world and will be the overwhelming favorites. But win or lose, there will be no funny business in the next round about spectators or invitations: the match will be played in Israel!