Israeli tennis player Andy Ram said Swedish authorities made a "stupid decision'' when they chose to ban Davis Cup fans from attending the best-of-five series between the two countries.
|Protests are expected to greet Andy Ram in Sweden [GALLO/GETTY]
Ram, one of the players embroiled in an international controversy last month over entry into the United Arab Emirates, said that the decision to play the first round series in Malmo between Israel and Sweden in an empty stadium could inspire other countries to follow suit.
"I think it was a wrong decision. I think it maybe can open the door for other countries (to) make a stupid decision like this one,'' Ram said.
"I think it's going to be very bad to play without a crowd.''
Israeli player Shahar Peer was denied entry into the UAE for the Dubai Tennis Championships last month.
After an international outcry against the decision, Ram was allowed to play in the men's tournament the following week.
But Malmo city officials decided to keep the fans away from the Davis Cup series from Friday through Sunday because they said they couldn't guarantee the security at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall.
Anti-Israel protests are expected in Malmo, and about 1,000 police have been called in to keep protesters from the arena.
Harel Levy, another member of Israel's four-man team, said it was wrong to mix sports and politics.
"We are here to play tennis,'' Levy said. "We are not here to talk about politics or to talk about terror.''
Dudi Sela and Noam Okun are also on the Israeli team, while Sweden will be represented by Robert Lindstedt, Simon Aspelin, Bjorn Rehnquist and Daniel Berta.
Captains can still make changes to their lineups, however, and veteran Thomas Johansson has been practicing with the Swedish team.
"We're here since Sunday and we saw him (Johansson) play every day, practicing very hard, so he's going to play,'' Sela predicted.
Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion, was disappointed that his country won't get the benefit of a cheering crowd for the weekend.
"When you play Davis Cup on home turf you want a full house, and we think it's too bad that there won't be,'' Johansson said.