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Some progress but no truce

The tennis federation has been forced to agree with some demands but has ignored key issues, reports Sukhwant Basra. How the AITA has responded to player demands

sports Updated: Jan 07, 2013 01:29 IST
Sukhwant Basra

The national tennis federation has made an effort to accommodate the demands of the players and the concessions ceded are a climb down for the body. This is a small victory for player unity and the next generation now knows that the only way to get the dinosaur administrators to evolve is to stick together and push hard. After all, the reforms now being offered have been in the asking for years. Till now, the All India Tennis Association did not even offer a cheep in response to vocal appeals for change. It was only when the body was arm twisted that it has budged.

Crucial demand ignored
SP Misra as captain for one more tie may well be acceptable to the rebels but the crucial demand of having six members has been ignored. The fact of the matter is that Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have turned up for ties as late as Wednesday with just two days to go. So, the team has seen just two players practising alone for three days. This does not work as variation in sparring partners is a must. Also, there is no exposure to Cup conditions for upcoming players, who are thrust into the hot seat when they make their debut.

The players asked for parity in flights for all team members. This was a measure that looked to foster team unity. It hardly makes sense to restrict it to something as silly as having been in the top-100 in singles and top-50 in doubles. That may well translate into singles players who play two matches going 'cattle class' while doubles specialists who have just one appearance in a tie get priority. This has happened in the past. The reasoning for more leg room is about preventing cramps that set in on long flights. For players, business class is not an ego trip.

The body is also silent on the issue of timely transparent payments. As of now, players don't know just what the International Tennis Federation is paying to the Indian body and why there are long delays before their pay cheques reach them. The situation right now is akin to a consultant hired for a specific purpose with no clue just what he will be paid and when. Not too many people would like to work under those conditions.

Conditions for selecting coach
Zeeshan Ali as coach may well be acceptable to the players but the clause of the team coach being a former Davis Cup player is also a load of nonsense. Nick Bollettieri trained greats like Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Monica Seles. He was in the US army and not in that nation's tennis team. High-level coaching and playing professional tennis are different skills, they needn't be in synch. The highest ranked Indian player right now is Yuki Bhambri (217). His coach Aditya Sachdeva never played Davis Cup. Why is he to be forever ineligible to be Davis Cup coach?

The unprofessionalism that the players talk about is apparent in the way the email has been sent out to the media. The players' media release was in response to the AITA officials' press statements. Now, the body has decided to offer them a fresh contract - which is unlikely to be accepted in entirety - in the form of a media release. Sigh!

This is not over yet.