The spate of heinous crimes against women seems to be scaring foreign participants from tennis tournaments being held in India. There have been an unprecedented 69 withdrawals by foreign players from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women's Futures tournament in Lucknow.
According to the ITF website, the $10,000 event to be held next week, has just two foreigners in the main draw and three in the qualifiers.
In the last three ITF Futures events in India, foreign participation has been nominal. While the two back-to-back $10,000 events in Hyderabad last month saw only eight and nine foreigners in the main draw, respectively; the on-going tournament in Chennai has seen four.
Drop in entries
If records for tournaments held at the same time from last year are checked, one will find a drop in entries. Three ITF's were held in March last year. The $10,000 events in Aurangabad and Mumbai had 16 and 23 foreign players in the main draw respectively. The $25,000 tournament in Bangalore had 25 foreign players in the draw of 32.
"Foreign players have citied security reasons for their withdrawal in their messages to the ITF. Their respective governments' have told the players to participate in the event at their own risk," says tournament director JS Kaul.
"It's not only happening in Lucknow. Events at Hyderabad and Chennai, too, have seen similar situations."
However, when HT contacted the ITF, they clarified that they have "not issued any security advice regarding these events".
Germany's Ann-Christin Nilsson, who will be playing the qualifiers in Lucknow, feels extremely unsafe travelling alone in the country. "It's really unsafe for a girl to move alone in India," she says. "Though I've been living in Bangalore for the past three years, I don't feel confident to move around alone. My mother always accompanies me," she adds. Nilsson recently lost in the first round in Chennai.
China's Xi-Yao Wang, who lost in the quarterfinals in Chennai, echoes a similar thought.
"I am playing in India for the first time. I worry about staying alone. I have asked an Indian player to arrange my stay in her hotel so I feel safe," she said.
Among the players who have withdrawn are from Australia, Sweden, France, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Japan and Thailand.