The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Saturday declared India the winner of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I third round tie after Australia decided against sending its team to Chennai for the May 8-10 match citing security concerns.
India now move to the World Group Play-off on Sept 18-20 and the ITF Davis Cup Committee will impose sanctions on Australia. The 28-time champions Australia risk a one-year ban from the competition and a $100,000 fine.
<b1>"The ITF regrets and respectfully disagrees with the decision of Tennis Australia (TA) to default its upcoming Davis Cup against India, scheduled to be played in Chennai on 8-10 May. By virtue of its decision not to send a team to compete against India, Australia has forfeited the tie. India is declared the winner. The draw for the Play-off Round will be held May 12," ITF said in a statement.
The TA decision comes in the wake of the ITF board's rejection of its appeal to move the tie out of India.
Australia's top player and former World number one Lleyton Hewitt and teammate Chris Guccione had previously 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.
The ITF said that an inspection by its independent security consultants, Olive Group, had declared Chennai as a safe venue to host the tie.
"After the site visit, the Olive Group reported that it was satisfied that the tie could go ahead as planned. Tennis Australia received a copy of the Olive Group report. This, and other information related to the tie was presented to the Davis Cup Committee, who voted that the tie should proceed in Chennai. Following an appeal by Tennis Australia, the ITF Board of Directors voted to uphold the decision of the Davis Cup Committee, after having received complete documentation for review," the ITF statement added.
Though India's graduation to the World Group Play-off brought back the smiles, the turn of events have sparked strong reactions from the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Indian sportspersons and officials.
With India set to host major sporting events in the next couple of years, including the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and sports ministry allayed security fears, saying the TA pullout was was an "isolated" case and would not portray the country as unsafe.
"There is no justification for Australia not to play in Chennai. We are fully conscious of security concerns. The state and central governments had assured them of complete security," Sports Minister MS Gill said.
India will be hosting major sporting events - the badminton World Championship (2009), the hockey World Cup and the AFC Challenge Cup - before the Commnwealth Games.
IOA secretary general Randhir Singh called on other countries to see the "larger picture". He also asked the ITF to take stringent action against TA for defying the apex body.
"Australia's decision is not a setback for the Commonwealth Games. You cannot club India with Pakistan. There is no such danger looming here as projected by TA. If that is the case, then security around the world is a problem.
"ITF had declared the venue safe and Australia should have followed it. ITF should impose a heavy penalty on Australia for taking such an irresponsible decision," Randhir Singh said.
AITA secretary general Anil Khanna termed Australia's decision "irresponsible and arrogant".
"ITF, in its security report, said India is absolutely safe and Chennai is a wonderful city to host the tie. Even after such a positive report from the ITF, it reflects Australia's certain amount of arrogance as an important tennis nation," a livid Khanna told reporters in New Delhi.
Khanna said TA's decision shows lack of understanding of the security situation in India.
"Australia have reacted similarly in the past when they refused to send a team for the junior event in Indonesia after the blasts in Bali six years ago."
One of reasons cited by the Australians is the security concerns during the general elections. Khanna rubbished the claim and questioned Australia's commitment to the Davis Cup.
Randhir, who is also the secretary general of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), sounded confident that the Australian decision will not impact other major events.
"OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Sabah was here in Delhi just two days back and he backed India to host the Asian Games in 2018. I am sure other nations will see the larger picture," he maintained.