Tennis: ITA is running the risk of humiliation

Ever since Israel's Fed Cup team was drawn to face Russia at home more than four months ago the Israel Tennis Association has been frenetically preparing for the historic tie. A new stand was added at the southern end of Ramat Hasharon's center court, increasing the stadium's capacity by a further 1,000 seats. The measly media room was completely renovated and no expense was spared to make sure Russia's superstars receive the best possible treatment while in Israel. One matter, however, was inexplicably cast aside. With the court at Ramat Hasharon open to the elements and with the tie scheduled to take place at the start of February, the heads of the ITA bizarrely decided that the risk of a downpour forcing the matches to be relocated was acceptable. With no adequate indoor tennis arena in Israel the ITA considered hosting the tie at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv after receiving special permission from the International Tennis Federation to play at the basketball arena. The ITA chose, however, to stick with Ramat Hasharon and pray instead for favorable weather. It seems as though the ITA's prayers have been answered as the current forecast is predicting that Saturday and Sunday will be mostly dry. But, in the event of rain, the matches will have to be moved to Beer Sheba's tiny tennis center, since the Nokia Arena has already been booked by an ice dancing show. And if it rains in Beer Sheba, you may ask... well let's just hope that doesn't happen, as the ITA has no real solution to that predicament. The absurd decision made by Israel's tennis chiefs is indicative of two of Israeli sport's biggest problems - poor management and a lack of adequate sporting facilities. With no reasonable indoor tennis arena the ITA ought to have made it a priority to book the Nokia Arena at least as an alternate venue in case of rain. Should the heavens open this weekend Israeli sport as a whole will be thoroughly embarrassed by the fact that its tennis team is hosting the reigning Fed Cup holders at an amateur tennis center, or even worse, that they have to face the humiliation of announcing that there is no venue in the country adequate for them to play in. Hopefully the current weather forecasts are accurate and this is a bridge that they will not have to cross. Regardless of what happens, however, there is a lesson to be learned. Shahar Pe'er and her Fed Cup teammates may shock the Russians over the weekend, but as long as the people running sport in Israel don't improve their decision making significantly, success on court will continue at the very best to be a rare occurrence.