Tennis Australia says it will not allow its team to travel to India for a scheduled Davis Cup match in May due to security concerns, risking a one-year suspension from the competition and a $100,000 fine.
The International Tennis Federation on Friday rejected Australia’s appeal against playing in India and upheld the decision to hold the match in Chennai as originally planned from May 8-10. The winner of the Asia-Oceania Group 1 third-round match will advance to the World Group playoffs in September.
Tennis Australia, which said Saturday that there was still an “unacceptable level of risk” in going to Chennai, had appealed for a change of venue after the ITF said last week that Chennai was approved by the Davis Cup Committee following a positive report from security consultants.
If a team withdraws from the competition after the draw has been made, Davis Cup rules state that the country will not be eligible to take part in the competition the following year, and be fined up to $100,000.
Voting in the India general election finishes three days after the match. Cricket’s Indian Premier League was moved to South Africa over concerns that the election would stretch Indian security contingents.
“We asked for the tie to be moved because we have major security concerns for the players, particularly during the election,” Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard said at Mildura, Victoria, where Australia is playing Fed Cup this weekend.
“The ITF decision has left us with no other option. We cannot send the team. It is extremely disappointing.
“It would be irresponsible of us to send our players into an area of such high risk. Davis Cup is very important to us, but some things are more important than tennis.”
Australia Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald said he was angry and upset with the ITF decision.
“It is just irresponsible. Surely some thought must be given to the players’ safety,” Fitzgerald said .
“I believe they say the election is not a cause for concern, the IPL moving is not relevant and that an ATP tournament held in January shows it is safe to play in Chennai,” he added.
“So what about the fact that dozens of people are being killed along the campaign trail of the election? A train was hijacked this week, but that does not alter their thoughts? Did the IPL move for no reason?”
Fitzgerald said the players shared his disappointment and still hoped for the ITF to change its decision before May 8.
Australia is a 28-time Davis Cup champion. It’s top player Lleyton Hewitt, a 28-year-old father of two and former No. 1, had said through his manager that he would likely not travel to India due to concerns over security.
The match was set for a 5,800-capacity outdoor venue, the SDAT Tennis Stadium.
Concerns about security on the Indian subcontinent increased after the terror attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan, last month. Australia’s most capped Davis Cup player, Todd Woodbridge, accused the ITF on Wednesday of being irresponsible.
Terror attacks in Mumbai last November, blamed on Islamic extremists, killed 166 and injured 304 in the Indian financial center and forced an international Twenty20 cricket tournament to be scrapped.