Australia risks ban, fine by refusing to play tennis in India (Lead, Changing Dateline)

New Delhi/Sydney, April 25 (Inditop) Tennis Australia (TA) Saturday announced that it will not send its team to play the Davis Cup tie against India in Chennai May 8-10 because of security concerns, risking a one-year ban from the competition and a $100,000 fine.

The TA decision comes in the wake of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) board’s rejection of its appeal to move the tie out of India.

TA president Geoff Pollard said in a statement that the ITF’s decision has left the Australians with no option but to pull out.

“We asked for the tie to be moved because we have major security concerns for the players, particularly during the election,” said Pollard.

“The ITF decision has left us with no other option. We cannot send the team, it is extremely disappointing. It would be irresponsible of us to send our players into an area of such high risk. The Davis Cup is very important to us but some things are more important than tennis,” he added.

Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald expressed his anger at the ITF decision to not shift the Asia-Oceania Zone Group I third round tie.

“It is just irresponsible,” Fitzgerald said. “Surely some thought must be given to the players’ safety.”

“I believe they say the election is not a cause for concern, the IPL (Indian Premier League cricket tournament) moving is not relevant and that an ATP tournament held in January shows it is safe to play in Chennai.

“So what about the fact that dozens of people are being killed along the campaign trail of the election? A train was hijacked this week, but that does not alter their thoughts? Did the IPL move for no reason?” he questioned.

“The ATP event involved no national teams and was held three months prior to the election. This decision makes no sense. We have worked so hard to get back in to World Group contention, to have it snatched away like this is gut wrenching,” he added.

Fitzgerald said the players shared his disappointment and hoped for the ITF to revoke its decision.

“This decision makes no sense. We have worked so hard to get back in to World Group contention, to have it snatched away like this is gut wrenching,” he said.

Australia’s top player and former World number one Lleyton Hewitt and teammate Chris Guccione have already indicated that they would not be travelling to Chennai for the tie.

Hewitt’s manager David Drysdale said earlier in the week that the two-time Grand Slam champion and father of two would not go to India.

All India Tennis Association (AITA) secretary-general Anil Khanna told IANS that he never had any apprehension about the tie being played in Chennai and was happy with the ITF decision.

“The ITF decision was on the expected lines and we welcome it. The security measures for the tie are tight and there is no need for any apprehension,” Khanna said.

The AITA was confident the ITF would not accede to Australia’s request, considering that the international body’s own security consultants had cleared the Chennai stadium and declared it was safe.

A win over India would take Australia to the World Group play-offs in September, paving the way for re-entry into the top tier in 2010.

A loss against India, with a depleted team, would mean 2012 would be the earliest Australia could re-enter the World Group. A 12-month ban would push that back to 2013