New Delhi: The crisis that has hit Indian tennis deepened on Friday 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.
"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.
Sanam Singh said their suggestions needed 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," the diminutive player said.
Vishnu Vardhan, who played extremely well on his Olympics debut with Paes, said, "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."
Yuki Bhambri said a change in the system was the need of the hour.
"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," he said.
Left-handed Divij Sharan, who was recently India's fourth current player in top-100 in doubles, a change will bring the best out of the players.
"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," he said.
Saketh Myneni said,"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."