It was strange sight. India's highest-ranked singles player (241) Yuki Bhambri watched from the stands while his practice partner Vijayant Malik (537) valiantly tried to make a match of his Davis Cup debut.
Ideally, given that Bhambri is not injured, it should have been the other way around. “It's a big, big disappointment for me not to be playing... that too with the tie being in my home city, it would have been really special,” said Bhambri.
But he was quick to jump into a combative stride. “It's a shame that the AITA (All India tennis Association) can't sit down and have a chat,” he said alluding to the ongoing tussle between the federation and eleven top players who have refused to play unless their demands of better conditions are met.
When told that the federation had really made an effort to climb down and acceded to most of the ultimatums, Bhambri said, "We don't even know that they have agreed other than what we have read in the papers. All these years they have said things and not delivered. All we want is a written guarantee. They need to communicate it and each one of us will be available to play."
Sitting close by was world doubles rank 115 Divij Sharan, one of the eleven. Over the last few days, Sanam Singh, singles ranked 298, has been regularly practicing at the same venue. His presence in the squad too could have made a major difference.
"For us this is not about taking on the federation. It's about making a difference for the next level of players. If there was another way to get AITA to discuss our issues, none of this would have happened," said Bhambri.
Chairman of selection committee Anil Dhupar wonders just why the players are complaining of a lack of communication.
"Everything was told to Somdev (Devvarman, the main man behind the players' stand). And if they are all here why can't they just call us and have a meeting? The federation has bent over backwards, the players also must now meet us midway."