New Delhi: Two days after agreeing to play the Davis Cup tie against Indonesia, top players on Monday formed an association to “represent the professional interests of its members and, thereby, improve the standard of tennis in the country.”
Named Indian Tennis Players’ Association (ITPA), the newly-formed body has all the senior players of the country as its members except Leander Paes, who was not a part of the players’ revolt against the All India Tennis Association (AITA) during the Davis Cup tie against South Korea.
Asked whether he has been invited to join the organisation which is open to all Indian players, Paes’ reply was, “No.”
While current players like Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Dev Varman, are the members of the ITPA, former Davis Cupper Jaidip Mukerjea has been named the interim president. “Mr. Mukerjea will act as the interim president in the ITPA’s formative period until the general council and the general body formally meets,” a statement said.
The formation of the association once again highlighted the sharp division within the AITA ranks as Karti Chidambaram, a vice-president of the national body, is one of the founder members of the ITPA.
The list of members also includes Enrico Piperno, Manisha Malhotra, Prahlad Srinath, Mustafa Ghouse and Aditya Sachdeva, the man who was backed by the rebel players as the Davis Cup coach in place of Zeeshan Ali.
The association, which issued a statement from Chennai, gave enough indications that ITPA has been formed to keep up the pressure on AITA.
“A not-for-profit association, the ITPA is being constituted as a Section 25 company and is built on the premise that the existing structure of tennis administration in the country does not represent, or adequately address, contemporary issues faced by players in the country.
“The players constituting the ITPA strongly believe in the principles of self governance and consultative dialogue in arriving at key decisions impacting professional tennis in the country,” the statement from the players said.
Sources said the first meeting of the association could be held during the Miami Masters in the US. Any Indian player can pay an annual fee of Rs. 500 and become a member of the association.
“We believe the ITPA will provide the players with a voice that will stand united in our concerns and give suggestions for the improvement of the sport in the country,” said Somdev.
The AITA is keeping a close watch on the latest developments. It said that it would wait for ITPA to approach the national federation for recognition and hoped it would not disrupt the ongoing discussions for a long-term understanding.
“We have heard about it. If they approach the federation for recognition, we will discuss it in the executive committee and convey to them our decision,” AITA chief executive Hironmoy Chatterjee said.