The crisis that has hit Indian tennis deepened today with the revolting players threatening to pull out of the upcoming Davis Cup tie against South Korea unless AITA discusses their "legitimate" suggestions for improvement in the system.
The eight players issued a joint statement and insisted that their intention is not to challenge the authority of national tennis body.
The full statement is reproduced below:
We have chosen to issue this statement to clarify our position as regards our suggestions to the AITA, in the context of all speculation being reported in the media. It was and is not our intention to make this a public affair, and we wished for certain matters to be amicably resolved, in private, between the AITA and the players. However, 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.
Our suggestions are about providing the Davis Cup squad with all the necessary tools to make it a stronger and more competitive team than it is currently. We have suggested the following:
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.
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.
Please understand that this statement is not and should not be construed as an ultimatum, but instead as a platform for change to ensure a better future for Indian Tennis.
Here's what the players had to say about the issue:
"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."
"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."
"I believe for us to function as a team and perform at the best of our abilities while representing the nation at the Davis cup, our suggestions need to be heard. We are a young team and stand united in the belief that these changes are for the best for Indian tennis and for us as a team moving forward."
"These 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."
"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."
"We work and train hard throughout the year and when performing for the nation we want to put our best foot forward. To perform at the optimum level we need to use the best available resources.
We are a young team and deserve a younger support staff, people with whom we can mentally connect."
"Representing the country at the Davis Cup is an honour for all of us. As players, we are always working towards performing our best on court, and collectively, we believe that some systemic changes are needed to help us in this regard. We believe that this support will go a long way in getting the best out of the players."
"We are not rebelling, but making an attempt to open discussions on the way forward for the sport in India. As a young, united team, we need changes in the best interest of the Indian Davis Cup Team."