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Sweden's Davis Cup team captain Mats Wilander claimed on Tuesday that every match in this weekend's tie against Israel at Ramat Hasharon is wide open.
"I think all five matches can be won or lost. The score can be 5-0 or 0-5, it's very hard to pick the winners," seven-time Grand Slam winner Wilander said on Tuesday. "The Israeli team is very strong in Davis Cup play, as we saw against Chile. I think the Israeli fans will help them, but will also help us. It's always fun to play a tennis match when the crowd is in to it."
Of the poor reputation Israel's tennis fans have built themselves recently, Wilander said: "Sometimes you have crowds that are not very sportsmen like, but that has a lot to do with how the players act on court. We have to be strong mentally and show it doesn't bother us. We have a very experienced team and we've been in this situation before."
Sweden lost 4-1 to the USA in the semifinals of the competition last year, 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.
Thomas Johansson, who is ranked 60th in the world, will be Sweden's No. 1 player, with Robin Soderling (52) out with an injury.
"Israel has been playing really well at home and they raise their game when playing at Ramat Hasharon. We've been in this situation before and we know what to do," Johansson said on Tuesday.
Doubles specialists Jonas Bjorkman and Simon Aspelin will play against Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich on Saturday, with Wilander still to make a decision on who will be his No. 2 singles player.
Israel, which will be looking to reach the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1987 and for the second time in its history, will be playing at home for a fourth straight tie this weekend.
Harel Levy (152), who will be Israel's No. 2 player behind Dudi Sela (67), stressed on Tuesday that despite the Swede's claims, the visitors are the favorites this weekend.
"The Swedes are trying to reduce the pressure on themselves by saying the chances are 50-50, but they are the favorites and we're the clear underdogs in this tie," Levy said. "We're training hard and feeling excellent. We will do all we can to guarantee ourselves another year in the World Group."
Saturday's doubles match promises to be a high level encounter and Ram is already feeling the pressure.
"It's always a challenge to play a good doubles team. We will be under a lot of pressure," he said. "They're the best doubles team that we could face in the competition apart from the Bryan brothers."
Sela, who led Israel to a 3-2 win over Chile in the World Group playoff with two singles victories, admitted that he will be slightly nervous on Friday.
"I know what to expect on Friday, but I'll still be a little nervous at the beginning of the match. I'm sure, however, that everything will be alright if I give my all and fight for every ball."
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