Tennis: Sela hitting stride ahead of Davis Cup

Malmo to remain host of Israel/Sweden tie with spectator ban intact.

dudi sela artistic 248.88a (photo credit: )
dudi sela artistic 248.88a
(photo credit: )
Dudi Sela continued his excellent form from last week on Tuesday, advancing to the second round of the Delray Beach International Championships after Phillip Petzschner retired with injury with the Israeli leading 6-3, 4-1. In the second round, Sela will face the winner of the first round match between Ernests Gulbis and Marcos Baghdatis. In related news, it was announced on Tuesday that the Davis Cup match between Sweden and Israel will go ahead as planned - without spectators in the southern city of Malmo - after an attempt to move the venue to Stockholm fell through. Swedish organizers on Tuesday cited security concerns for the closed-door policy because anti-Israeli demonstrations are expected during the best-of-five series on March 6-8. But the volley of words between the two Swedish cities has an unmistakable political dimension. Malmo, Sweden's third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim minority. Its leaders have strongly criticized Israel after the Gaza invasion, and some have called for dropping the Davis Cup match altogether. Stockholm has a center-right majority that is more pro-Israeli. The Swedish capital offered Monday to step in as an alternative venue, saying it was better prepared to guarantee security for the match. However, the plan was canceled when Stockholm officials realized they wouldn't be able to get organized in time for the Israeli team's Sunday arrival, said Madeleine Sjostedt, Stockholm's vice mayor in charge of culture and sports. "I'm very disappointed. We worked intensely with this for a few days but had to give up," she said, adding that Malmo's decision was political. "It's regrettable that Malmo doesn't engage in discussion with those who threaten with violence." Malmo Mayor Ilmar Reepalu insisted the decision to bar spectators was solely based on security concerns. He noted that pro-Palestinian groups had disrupted a recent pro-Israel demonstration by throwing bottles, eggs and fireworks. "It shows the tensions that exist after the conflict in Gaza," Reepalu, of the left-leaning Social Democrats, said by phone. Also Tuesday, Israel and Sweden announced their teams for the tie. Israel captain Eyal Ran named Sela, Harel Levy, Noam Okun and Andy Ram as expected, but Sweden captain Mats Wilander was forced to call-up a second string team. Bjorn Rehnquist and Daniel Berta are in line to make Davis Cup debuts, with doubles specialists Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt also included in the team. The top-ranked Swedish player, Robin Soderling, will miss the March 6-8 match because of injury. Berta, 16, has little experience at the senior level and will become the youngest Swede in the Davis Cup since Bjorn Borg. Thomas Johansson and Andreas Vinciguerra will practice with the team but neither player is 100 percent fit, assistant coach Joakim Nystrom said. "The training sessions will have to show whether there is reason to change the team when the draw is done next Thursday," Nystrom said.