Chennai, India: Indian tennis was hit by controversy Wednesday over reports that top players may boycott next month’s Davis Cup tie against South Korea if a slew of demands were not met.
The group of players, headed by Somdev Devvarman, want a better distribution of the Davis Cup prize money, a change in the support staff and involvement in the choice of venues for ties.
The All-India Tennis Association (AITA) and the players currently have a 50-50 share of the prize money sent by the world governing body from revenues earned from the tournament.
The players also wanted non-playing captain Shiv Misra and national coach Nandan Bal to be replaced and a full-time physiotherapist be inducted in the squad.
Both the AITA and Devvarman played down a report in Wednesday’s Hindustan Times that the players could stay away from the Cup tie against the Koreans if their demands were ignored.
The Asia-Oceania group one tie in New Delhi from February 1 to 3 will take the winners into the play-offs for next year’s elite world group.
“I don’t want to point fingers at anyone or make an alarming statement,” said Devvarman, who is taking part in the ongoing ATP Chennai Open. “You will probably hear more about it in the days to come.”
An AITA official, who did not want to be named, accepted the players had made suggestions that will be discussed before the Cup squad is named around January 11.
“It’s not as serious an issue as is being made out,” the official told reporters. “We have already spoken to the players and will arrive at an agreement soon.”
Among those players supporting Devvarman’s stance are senior players Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, but former captain Leander Paes is not part of the group.
Trouble had also erupted ahead of the London Olympics last year when both Bopanna and Bhupathi declined to partner Paes at the Games for what they said were personal and professional reasons.
The controversy started after the AITA initially named the veteran duo of Bhupathi and Paes for the doubles, even though Bhupathi wanted to play with his then partner Bopanna.
The AITA were later forced to pick two doubles teams for the Olympics, with Paes pairing with lower-ranked Vishnu Vardhan, and Bhupathi partnering Bopanna.
Both pairs fell in early rounds at the Games.
Devvarman, who was India’s top player with a ranking of 62 in mid-2011, fell to 663 by the end of last year when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury for almost seven months.
The 27-year-old proved he was fit again as he defeated the 106th-ranked Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic in the first round of the Chennai Open on Tuesday.