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India body stands firm on Davis Cup demands

By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Indian tennis association is refusing to be held to ransom by regular Davis Cup players, who have hinted at a possible boycott if their demands for a greater involvement in the running of the team are not met.

Eight top players, excluding Leander Paes, have submitted a list of requirements to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) with a veiled threat to snub the regional first round home tie against South Korea early next month if no action was taken.

The governing body would look into the suggestions but the players would not be allowed to dictate terms, AITA chief executive Hironmoy Chatterjee told Reuters in an interview.

"They have put forward some views and not all of them are pointless. Some of their demands are acceptable but we have told them that ultimately the call will be ours," Chatterjee said.

"I have spoken to them and have heard their views. I will speak to the committee members and decide on the future course of action," he added.

"They have been told 'you can suggest' but as players, they are supposed to play. They can't be players, administrators and selectors at the same time."

The group, which includes Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna, want changes made to team management, a higher share of Davis Cup prize money and a say in the choice of venues for ties.

The AITA and the players currently divide the prize money for the tournament down the middle as an equal 50/50 split.

UGLY ROW

"There are a few good suggestions. They want a change in their support staff like the addition of a full-time physio, which is not wrong," Chatterjee added.

"We will give them everything they need to perform better. But if they are adamant, we have to walk a different path."

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 partnership returned with a medal from London.

Chatterjee, a veteran tennis administrator, said his organization would not bow to player power, adding it would also set a bad precedent for other sports in the country.

"We cannot force anyone to play. If one doesn't want to play, he doesn't play," he said. "There are other players available.

"There is no question of bowing down. We will accept few requests but not all.

"It will be wrong to tolerate this indiscipline, it will give a wrong signal to other sporting factions. We have to be very firm."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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