Ram critical of Davis Cup fan ban

MALMO, Sweden -- Israeli tennis player Andy Ram said Swedish authorities made a "stupid decision" when they barred fans from the Davis Cup series between the nations.

Ram became embroiled in an international dispute last month over his appearance at a tournament in United Arab Emirates. He said Tuesday 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 Shahar Peer was denied entry into the UAE for the Dubai Tennis Championships last month. After an international outcry, Ram was allowed to play in the men's tournament the following week.

But Malmo city officials decided to keep the fans away because they said they couldn't guarantee security at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall. Anti-Israel protests are expected in Malmo, and about 1,000 police have been called to keep protesters from the arena. The best-of-five series will be played Friday through Sunday.

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. Sweden will be represented by Robert Lindstedt, Simon Aspelin, Bjorn Rehnquist and Daniel Berta. Captains can still make lineup changes, however, and veteran Thomas Johansson has been practicing with the Swedish team.

"We're here since Sunday and we saw [Johansson] play every day, practicing very hard, so he's going to play," Sela predicted.

Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion, was disappointed his country won't get the benefit of a cheering crowd.

"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," he said.