The Maharashtra Tennis League, the first of its kind in the country, has come as good news for Indian tennis. But it may hold some sour notes for the national tennis body. In an attempt to silence the rebelling players, the All India Tennis Association announced the Davis Cup squad to face Republic of Korea well ahead of the ITF stipulation of only requiring the team list 10 days before the tie.
And with no other formal competition to judge the players before the Davis Cup, the MTL, a fun venture meant to popularise the sport and reap in some financial rewards for the players, has taken on a loaded importance on the calendar. It also has the potential to give the AITA a few uncomfortable moments.
Over two days, three of the players being considered for singles in the Davis Cup have been comfortably beaten by the ‘rebels’. On Tuesday, Divij Sharan of Dazzling Deuces, who now mainly plays doubles on the pro tour beat Sharp Smashers Vijayant Malik 7-3, Mumbai Blasters’ Kaza Vinayak Sharma defeated Baseline Bombers' Arjun Kadhe by identical score while Sanam Singh, also from Blasters, blanked top-ranked singles player in the Davis Cup squad VM Ranjeet 7-3 on Wednesday.
“I don't know if the AITA is, but ideally they should be taking the League seriously,” said Anand Amritraj, captain of the Mumbai Blasters. “Some of the best Indian talent is involved in the MTL. It's the biggest thing that has happened in Indian tennis for a long time.” AITA's Bharat Oza wasn't quite forthcoming on how seriously the body was taking the player performances in the League. “We get the scores at the end of the day. That's how we are following the League; I hear Sanam is doing well.”
Sanam has in fact won all his three singles matches so far. And, as of now, is unavailable for Davis Cup selection. Another reminder for the AITA on what they will be missing out on.