In almost every respect, the events of the past week in Sweden are a sad moment for Tennis, for sports in general, and certainly for Israel.
Never in my career as an athlete have I encountered such hatred and such blend of sports and politics.
Up until the last moment, the protestors attempted to prompt the cancelation of the David Cup match between Israel and Sweden. After we already landed here, their leader met with Swedish team captain Mats Wilander and asked him to call off the contest.
The Swedish players actually understand us and are quite embarrassed by what is happening, yet these events have completely changed my perception of Sweden, and it is doubtful whether I’ll want to come back here ever again.
The feelings within the Israel team are very grim. All the innocence that prompted us to play tennis has disappeared, and this match, which was supposed to be a beautiful moment of sports, has become completely worthless. Nothing here is reminiscent of the Davis Cup; what we have is a war atmosphere, tension, and the feeling that something very bad may happen at any moment.
I have never seen the kind of security that we are receiving here; not even in Dubai, where I played a few weeks ago. At any given moment, we are surrounded by police vehicles, undercover police officers, and anti-terror forces. Every morning, they take us from the hotel to the stadium via another route, through an underground parking lot, with part of the ride being undertaken in armored vehicles.
The venue of the contest, which was supposed to be filled to capacity with fans, is almost completely empty because of fears of riots. Several rings of fences have been erected around it to keep everyone away. The fences are surrounded by thousands of police officers, who on Saturday had to battle thousands of rioting protesters who were hurling all sorts of objects, shattering shop windows, and attempting to get closer to the venue.
Since we landed here, almost a week ago, we left the hotel only three times; we ate at a restaurant twice, and went to see some tourist site. Even then we were surrounded by a crazy security presence. We spend the rest of the time at the hotel or on the court and make sure to be very cautious.
In recent years, the strength of our team has been its tight-knit spirit, and events such as the ones in Sweden boost our motivation. During such days, we are even prouder to be Israeli, and we shall do everything to restore our honor, which they try to trample here. In this respect, the best service we can do for ourselves and for the country is to win, and I believe we can do it.