NEW DELHI: Faced with a boycott threat from India’s top tennis players, a beleaguered AITA today sought to placate the revolting group by terming their suggestions as “progressive” and agreeing to meet some of their demands.
“The players suggestions are progressive. If they want a change in the (prize sharing) agreement after 18 years, it is rightly so,” AITA President Anil Khanna told PTI.
“AITA CEO and other senior Executives had a fruitful meeting with the players and AITA is looking with a positive frame of mind to help the players financially. AITA is aware that the players do not make tremendous amount of money on the circuit. They deserve all the support which, they can get,” Khanna added.
As per the current agreement, the AITA and the players divide the prize money, given by the International Tennis Federation, equally.
The players are okay with 50-50 ratio for Group II ties but want more share for the upper level ties. As per media reports, they want 70-30 ratio for Group I ties and 80-20 for the World Group ties.
Meanwhile, AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee, who is talking to the players on behalf of the tennis body, said they are discussing with the Executive Committee members how much more money could be given to the players.
“We are working out the numbers. It is our responsibility to give moral support to the players. We are willing to extend support within our limitations,” Chatterjee told PTI.
“Actually Davis Cup ties are a loss making propositions for us. We lose money but we will extend support if the players feel more comfortable with that. We do not mind giving additional support. We are working out what can be given,” he added. Chatterjee hopes that the crisis will soon end, saying,” I assure that we will reach a mutually acceptable decision.”
However, he said categorically that the final call with regard to support staff of the team remains with them.
Earlier in the day, the eight revolting players threatened to boycott the South Korea tie but insisted that their intention is not to challenge the authority of AITA.
“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.
“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.”
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, who is leading the group of players, 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.
Veteran 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.
Rohan Bopanna said the suggestions made to the AITA are for the benefit of the sport and for the future of the sport in the country.
“Each and every one of us currently playing for the country, believe that these changes will result in a stronger and fairly selected team to represent the nation on multiple platforms,” Bopanna said.