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Negotiations stall, India face Davis Cup crisis

India's tennis player Leander Paes speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) stadium in New Delhi
India's tennis player Leander Paes speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) stadium in New Delhi

By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian tennis faces a second major embarrassment in six months after negotiations between the association and disgruntled Davis Cup players failed ahead of their home tie against South Korea next month.

Eight top players, excluding Leander Paes, submitted a list of requirements to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) with a veiled threat to snub the regional first round tie in New Delhi from February 1-3 if no action was taken.

On Sunday, the AITA agreed to most of the demands but it was not enough to convince the group, which includes Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna, as they rejected the compromise formula.

Hironmoy Chatterjee, the chief executive of the governing body, ruled out any further dialogue with the players and set them a Thursday deadline to commit to playing in the team event.

"We will wait for the players' response. We won't change our stand. Whatever was possible to be done, we have done. Now it's upto them to send in their availability," Chatterjee told Reuters on Tuesday.

"Whoever sends in their availability by January 10, we will select the team from that lot."

The AITA agreed to the demands for a new coach, a higher share of prize money and the players' involvement in the choice of venues for ties among others but rejected a request to change the captain and decided to retain S.P. Misra to lead the team.

The governing body, though, snubbed the players' choice of support staff, naming Zeeshan Ali as the new coach and asked the government to appoint a qualified doctor and a fulltime physiotherapist for the team.

"We have done enough and now it is upto them. The problem is now they are overstepping," Chatterjee said by phone. "They want to be players, they want to be selectors, they want to be administrators, which is not on.

"Now we will need to get them back to track otherwise we will send a wrong signal to the entire sporting fraternity.

"I wouldn't like to use the term blackmailing but they are definitely crossing the line.

"It's not that India has only eight players, we have enough players to choose from and play the tie."

Last year, the AITA handed doubles specialists Bhupathi and Bopanna a two-year Davis Cup suspension for their refusal to partner Paes at the London Olympics.

The trio figured in an ugly row ahead of the Games that forced the association to change their original decision to field Paes and Bhupathi as a pair.

Paes eventually partnered rookie Vishnu Vardhan while India had a second pair in Bhupathi and Bopanna, but neither duo returned with a medal from London.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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