Sweden takes 2-1 lead after doubles

Updated: March 7, 2009, 3:03 PM ET
Associated Press

MALMO, Sweden -- While demonstrators clashed with police outside the near-empty stadium, Sweden won the doubles match Saturday to take a 2-1 lead against Israel in the Davis Cup series.

Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt defeated Israelis Andy Ram and Amir Hadad 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 as police held off dozens of anti-Israel protesters who tried to storm the barricades outside the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall.

The players found out about the melee after the match.

"We knew there were going to be a few thousand people screaming out there," Ram said. "Inside here we didn't feel anything. The police did a good job."

[+] EnlargeHarel Levy
Stig-Ake Jonsson/AFP/Getty ImagesIsrael's Harel Levy finds it a lonely scene as only 300 'special guests' were allowed to attend the Davis Cup matches in Malmo, Sweden, because of security issues.

Only 300 special guests were allowed inside the hall to watch Ram and Hadad save two match points before Lindstedt's drop shot winner clinched the match. Malmo officials had closed the venue to the public, citing security risks and protests against Israel because of the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the week, Ram said it was a "stupid decision" to play the match behind closed doors.

"Playing without a crowd is like playing a practice match," Ram said.

On Sunday, Israel's Dudi Sela is scheduled to play Thomas Johansson in reverse singles, followed by Harel Levy against Andreas Vinciguerra.

The clashes erupted after about 7,000 people gathered at a downtown square to hear speeches condemning Israel's offensive in Gaza and urging support for Palestinians.

Organizers of the "stop the match" protest had said the demonstration would be peaceful, but extreme-left activists had vowed to disrupt the match.

About 100 people were apprehended and at least six were formally arrested for rioting, Malmo police spokeswoman Ewa Westford said. There were no reports of injuries.

About 1,000 police from southern Sweden were deployed in Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city, to keep the protesters from entering the arena.

The Israelis rallied after dropping the first set but Aspelin and Lindstedt raised their game in the third.

"They played a good tiebreak to win the third set," Ram said. "And they didn't give us any chances in the fourth."

The Swedes, who were favored to win the doubles, were relieved to head into the reverse singles on Sunday with a one-point advantage.

"If we hadn't won this match, things would have looked more difficult on Sunday," Lindstedt said.

Hadad, ranked 980th in singles and 347th in doubles, was called up to play for Israel.

"We have two injured players, and I was next," Hadad said.

On Friday, Johansson put Sweden ahead with a five-set win over Levy before Sela evened the series with a five-set victory against Vinciguerra.

It marks the second time a Davis Cup series was played without fans in Sweden. In 1975, two years after a military coup in Chile led by Augusto Pinochet, Sweden played Chile in an empty stadium in Bastad.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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