Tennis / Ram and Erlich Are Flying High

Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich landed in Israel yesterday, on the same flight as Maria Sharapova. While the recently crowned Australian Open women's singles champion headed straight to the Daniel Hotel, the doubles champions were greeted by dozens of waiting fans in a welcome-home celebration that included flashes, hugs with their families and pushing and shoving toward the foyer, where Ram found the blessing of Minister of Science, Culture and Sport Raleb Majadele.

"I dreamed about this moment," said Erlich. "The most exciting moment was when we were photographed with [Israel's] flag. "Every tear that I have shed over the course of my career was worth it for this moment."

"Everyone is happy about a Grand Slam title being brought to Israel," added Ram.

At the end of the ceremony, Ram poured Champagne on a surprised Erlich, and the floor. The workers, who had just taken pictures of the doubles duo with their cell phones, suddenly were not so happy about the fact that they had to clean up their mess.

Ram and Erlich arrived in Israel ahead of the February 8-10 Davis Cup World Group first-round tie against Sweden. Harel Levy will be the second singles player along with with Dudi Sela.

While Sharapova was trying to dodge the media yesterday, only two of Russia's players practiced in Ramat Hasharon for this weekend's Fed Cup tie: Elena Likhovtseva, a training player, and Dmitry Tursunov, who will be used to practice against Sharapova.

"The odds are even because we don't have enough time to practice," said Shamil Tarpischev, Russia's captain. "The weather is not stable, and it is also a problem. I already prefer the Russian snow."