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26 February 2024

India's players form body to protect interests


India's top tennis stars joined hands on Monday to start a players' association following the dispute with the national federation that made them skip their last Davis Cup tie.

The body, named the Indian Tennis Players Association (ITPA), will have veteran Jaideep Mukherjee as its interim president and Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna among its founding members.

"It will primarily function as a forum and platform to represent the professional interests of its members and, thereby, improve the standard of tennis in the country," the ITPA said in a statement.

Eleven players, excluding Leander Paes, had declined to play in the recent Asia-Oceania group one Davis Cup tie against South Korea in New Delhi following their tussle with the All India Tennis Association (AITA).

India, with three debutants in the ranks, were thrashed 4-1 and must now defeat Indonesia in Bangalore from April 5 to 7 to avoid being relegated to group two.

A temporary truce inked last week saw the rebels, that included Devvarman, Bhupathi and Bopanna, announce they will be available for the Indonesia tie.

This followed an AITA letter to the players accepting some demands like a higher share of the prize money from Cup matches, business-class air travel for ties and the players' involvement in the choice of venues.

But the AITA refused to remove non-playing captain Shiv Misra, as demanded by the players, who were also unhappy with the appointment of former Davis Cup player Zeeshan Ali as coach.

The players made it known that their participation in future ties will depend on a final settlement with the AITA.

AITA chief executive Hironmoy Chatterjee said he had not heard directly from the players about their new association.

"The AITA will discuss the matter if the players wanted the association to be recognised," Chatterjee told reporters.