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Mahesh & Rohan blast AITA

New Delhi: Hours after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) chose to pick a bunch of rookie players for the Davis Cup tie against South Korea, doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna came out all guns blazing against the national body.

In a statement issued on Friday evening, the duo said they were disappointed to find the AITA select “an inexperienced side” for the February tie. They threatened to remain unavailable for national duty till all their demands were met.

“In making each of our suggestions to the AITA, we were guided by our strong convictions regarding what we believed was fair and beneficial to the future of the sport in the country and are dismayed to hear that the AITA has labelled our suggestions ‘unfair and unjustified’.

“The AITA’s position reiterates and reaffirms our stand, and we are constrained to state that, unfortunately, we will be unavailable to represent the country until such time that the AITA engages with us in good faith,” the statement said.

The AITA, on their part, accused the players of not seeing reason, despite every effort having been made to meet as many demands as possible. While the Davis Cup remuneration for the Asia/Oceania tie was raised from 50 to 60 per cent, it was also agreed to give business class air tickets to all four players of the squad.

“It may be mentioned that no country in Asia gives business class airfare to its Davis Cup players. India is the only country in Asia to give business class fares for Asia/Oceania matches,” the AITA said.

Claiming that AITA was paying more prize money to players than Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Thailand, Philippines and Pakistan, the AITA secretary general Bharat Oza said: “We may also mention that for the three ties against Russia, Brazil and Japan, Somdev Dev Varman was paid Rs. 34.69 lakh for his travel, prize money and personal coach expenses.

“Rohan Bopanna was paid Rs. 30.62 lakh for the four ties and Mahesh Bhupathi was paid Rs. 20.21 lakh for three ties.”

It may be recalled that before the London Olympics last year, Bhupathi and Bopanna were engaged in a bitter battle with the AITA over the choice of the doubles team. The duo refused to partner Leander Paes and finally forced the association to send them as a separate doubles combination.