JERUSALEM Tunisia have been suspended from the 2014 Davis Cup competition after the country's tennis federation ordered its number one player not to play against an Israeli.
Malek Jaziri withdrew from the second tier Tashkent Challenger tournament last month before his match against Israel's Amir Weintraub. Jaziri's brother told reporters the 215th ranked player had been ordered to default the match.
The governing body of men's tennis, ATP, cleared the player of wrongdoing but the International Tennis Federation (ITF) decided to impose the ban.
"The ITF Board of Directors found that the Tunisian Tennis Federation was in breach of the ITF Constitution by interfering with international sporting practice and ordering Tunisian player Malek Jaziri not to compete against Israeli player Amir Weintraub at the 2013 Tashkent Challenger in October," the ITF said in a statement on Saturday.
"The Board was not satisfied with the case put forward by the Tunisian Tennis Federation and voted to suspend Tunisia from the 2014 Davis Cup competition."
ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti added: "There is no room for prejudice of any kind in sport or in society. The ITF Board decided to send a strong message to the Tunisian Tennis Federation that this kind of action will not be tolerated by any of our members,"
Tunisia were relegated from Europe/Africa Zone Group II this season.
Israel and Tunisia do not have any diplomatic ties and limited relations were severed in 2000 by the Tunisians following the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
"We think this was the correct decision that makes clear that politics has no place in sport and we hope that (Tunisia) will heed the lesson and will return to the Davis Cup next year," Israel's Tennis Association chairman Assi Tuchmayr said.
Israeli-Tunisian tennis rivalries could face a further test next year when both nations will compete in the Fed Cup in Budapest in February.
(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Pritha Sarkar)