davis cup 88.
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Israel's hopes of repeating its best ever performance in the Davis Cup received a considerable boost on Thursday, after the team was drawn to host Sweden in the first round of the World Group.
The national team, which reached the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup in 1987, will host the seven time cup holders over the weekend of February 8-10 2008, after completing a 3-2 victory over Chile on Sunday.
"This is an excellent draw," Israel captain Eyal Ran admitted. "We will play at home just like we hoped. Sweden is one of the best teams in the world.
"It's no coincidence that they've been in the World Group for so many years," he said. "They have an illustrious tradition and have won the cup seven times. However, we have already shown that we can lift our play at home and beat better and stronger teams."
Sweden lost 4-1 to the USA in the semifinals of the competition last weekend, in its first appearance in the last four in six years.
The Swedes, who have played in the World Group every year except 2000, won the title six times in the 1980's and 1990's, with their last triumph coming in 1998.
The Sweden team that will be coming to play at Ramat Hasharon, however, will be lacking the star studded lineup of pervious years.
Bjorn Borg, who once won 33 consecutive Davis Cup singles matches, and Grand Slam winners Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander, who now captains the team, are no more then a distant memory. Robin Soderling, who is ranked 34th in the world and 35-year-old Jonas Bjorkman (54) are the side's two highest ranked players.
Thomas Johansson (55) is the team's only other top 100 player, but with Israel not even having a single player ranked among the top 100, Sweden will be entering February's tie as favorite.
"I believe we can surprise Sweden," said Dudi Sela, Israel's No. 1. "The most important thing is that we will be playing at home. They have three players of a top 50 level, but we've proven that we can beat anybody at home."
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