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Somdev Devvarman blast at AITA gives Sumit Nagal Davis Cup saga fresh twist

Somdev Devvarman says AITA is unfair in questioning Sumit Nagal’s attitude, alleges it is an attempt to cover its error in choosing five players instead of six for next month’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand.

tennis Updated: Jan 18, 2017 14:10 IST
HT Correspondent
Somdev,Somdev Devvarman,AITA
Somdev Devvarman has blasted the All India Tennis Association (AITA) in an open letter sent to select media representatives. (Getty Images)

Former India tennis star Somdev Devvarman hit out at the All India Tennis Association (AITA), saying it may be questioning former junior Wimbledon doubles champion Sumit Nagal’s attitude to cover its error in choosing five players instead of six for next month’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand.

Nagal, Devvarman said, was unavailable anyway because of a shoulder problem.

In an open letter to the media, present and former tennis players, Devvarman reacted strongly to charges of indiscipline against Nagal.

The purpose of the letter, Devvarman said, is to expose the incompetence of the AITA. “Useless is as useless does,” Devvarman wrote about the AITA’s handling of Nagal’s omission and aspersions cast on his character.

“As you were openly bringing bad publicity to our young player Sumit Nagal, one has to wonder, what were you really trying to accomplish there? Were you trying to teach Sumit a lesson? Are you trying to make an example out of him? Are you trying to cover up the bad decision your selection committee made with picking only 5 players for the next Davis cup (sic) tie and leaving out our highest ranked player Rohan Bopanna? What is it you’re exactly tying to accomplish is my question to you,” Devvarman wrote.

Devvarman, who retired earlier this month, said the misdemeanour charges on Nagal --- such as drinking and missing a practice session and bringing his girlfriend to the team hotel --- have been denied by the player.

And if a teenager does lose his way, he should have been sat down by the AITA in the company of senior pros and explained “what is acceptable and what is not” instead of letting the thing be played out in the media, he said.

Nagal, according to Devvarman, wouldn’t have played the tie against New Zealand because of a shoulder injury. “I have spent 2 weeks with Sumit in December helping him with his training and his rehab for the current shoulder injury he is recovering from,” said Devvarman.

“If you had any interest in your players you should have this information. It’s really not that hard to do. It just requires a little bit of the “caring about your players” factor that nobody from your organization has shown any interest in since I have been around.

“The poor kid was contemplating a shoulder surgery in the beginning of December and a couple of senior players in the country had decided to come together and help him out to make an informed decision about the best way to move forward.

“For your information, he is not available to play the upcoming Davis cup tie in Feb (sic) because he has literally just started hitting tennis balls again to test how he feels and again for to be clear, there’s still a chance he undergoes surgery if he continues feeling so much pain,” said Devvarman.

The letter makes repeated references to comments attributed to AITA secretary-general Hironmoy Chatterjee including the one he is supposed to have said about Nagal having a ‘breathing condition’ during his Davis Cup debut.

“Let me ask you Mr. Chatterjee. Why is it so wrong for Sumit to feel nervous? Are you speaking from your own experiences of playing your debut Davis cup tie for India? Do you know what it feels like to step on a court with the weight of a nation on your shoulders as a 19 year old? ….

Sumit Nagal (third from left) made his Davis Cup debut against Spain in September.

“….I remember my first time playing for the country. It was in Delhi on an unfamiliar grass court, and I remember being so nervous I could barely stand straight. Was I also unworthy material in your eyes?

“I also remember my 2nd and 3rd time when I was expected to win and didn’t deliver. But luckily I didn’t have you in my ear poisoning my self belief and morale. Incidentally I also remember winning a few Davis cup matches and gold medals for India not long after….,” Devvarman wrote.

“We cannot grow as a sporting nation as long as we have such people running sport in our country,” is how the letter ends.

Devvarman reached a singles career high of 62 in the world rankings in 2011.

He is the only Indian to have reached the singles final of the Chennai Open, in 2009 beating Carlos Moya and Ivo Karlovic en route.

After dealing with a shoulder injury in 2012, Devvarman returned to the top 100 in 2013. He also won singles and doubles gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games that year.

First Published: Jan 18, 2017 13:34 IST