The Indian tennis players spearheaded by Somdev Devvarman have come out in open revolt against the All India Tennis Association. This is the first time that eight players have come together and have gone on record threatening that if their demands are not met they would boycott India’s forthcoming Davis Cup tie against South Korea to be held in Delhi from February 1.
The eight players issued a joint statement and insisted that their intention is not to challenge the authority of national tennis body. “Given that all the information is now in the public domain, we wish to emphatically state that all of us are united in our stand against certain practices observed in the management of the Davis Cup squad. We are not looking to challenge the authority of the AITA, but are making a genuine attempt to change things for the improvement of Indian tennis,” the statement said.
The players repeated their major demands — change in support staff, a say in decision making, revised agreement for the distribution of Davis Cup prize money — and said they are not willing to play in Davis Cup unless AITA engages them in a dialogue.
What infuriated these eight players is the statement of the AITA secretary general Bharat Oza who threatened to introduce a disciplinary code for the players before the tie against South Korea.
“In light of the AITA Secretary General Bharat Oza’s statement that the AITA will introduce a disciplinary code for players before the Davis Cup tie against South Korea in February and that only those who sign the code will be able to represent the country, we wish to make it very clear that ALL of us are, regrettably, unavailable for Davis Cup selection unless the AITA is willing to consider and engage with us on our very legitimate suggestions in relation to the team.”
The players said their statement should not be construed as an ultimatum but instead as a platform for change to ensure a better future for Indian Tennis.
Somdev Devvarman said if they will not get a fair response from the AITA, they will continue with their fight. “If the AITA proposes a solution that is agreeable to all the players, I shall play for the country, if asked. If, in our opinion, the AITA’s response is unfair, I will stand united with the rest of the players and continue on our pursuit for changes in the system that I believe are necessary for the evolution of the sport and the system of sports administration in the country.
“My involvement will always be for the greater good of the team and what we believe is best for our team. We will not continue to function with these archaic methods of management,” Somdev was quoted as saying in the statement.
On his part, Mahesh Bhupathi, who has taken on AITA on several grounds in the past, backed the younger generation. “It is refreshing to see the players unite on a common stance. What they are suggesting is improved infrastructure and support to enhance their performance at Davis Cup ties. Tennis is a demanding sport physically and mentally, and these suggestions accommodate those factors. It shouldn’t be a hard decision for the AITA.
“If Leander (Paes) and I could have been on the same page years ago we would have done the same but the next generation seems to have us back on track now. I admire their desire to improve the state of affairs,” he said.