Top tennis players firm on their demands

Chennai, Jan 4 (IANS) The country's top tennis players said they would be unavailable for the next month's Davis Cup tie against Korea unless the All India Tennis Association (AITA) agrees to consider a list of demands.

In a press release issued here Friday, the players reiterated they were united in their stand against "certain practices observed in the management of the Davis Cup squad", but their intention was not to challenge the AITA's authority.

The players led by Somdev Devvarman who had sought the ouster of non-playing captain Shiv Prakash Misra besides changes in the team's support staff, said their efforts were to attempt an "improvement of Indian tennis".

The release quoted Devvarman as saying: "I feel our suggestions have been reasonable and have been arrived at based on what we believe we deserve. 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."

The release listed the following demands:

1. The team must comprise six players to ensure adequate practice partners, while also allowing for exposure to Davis Cup playing conditions for a larger pool of Indian talent.

2. The decision-making process for choosing the surface and venue for home ties should involve the participation of all active players.

3. Professional team management to include a common team physiotherapist and coach, a move that we believe will foster team unity.

4. A revised agreement for the distribution of Davis Cup prize money. The current ratio of distribution has been implemented based on a twenty-year-old agreement that strongly favours the AITA. We propose that. Henceforth, prize money be distributed to the players after the AITA recovers all costs incurred through a Davis Cup tie.

5. All team members should be treated at par with regard to logistical arrangements.

The release added: "Unfortunately, in light of the AITA Secretary General Mr. 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."

Another Davis Cupper, Vishnu Vardhan said in the release: "This is not a 'revolt' but a mere discussion between the players and the AITA to reach a common goal of achieving the best Indian Davis Cup team. A team that is built on merit and professionalism, and on this issue, we stand united."

The release also included other "personal statements" by Sanam Singh, Rohan Bopanna, Mahesh Bhupathi, Yuki Bhambri, Divji Sharan and Saket Myneni that echoed the sentiments expressed by Devvarman while stressing the point that it was not a players "rebellion".

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