In tennis’s world order,Australia are clubbed with countries in the Asia zone,they refer to their home Slam as the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific,and by dint of their status as a leading tennis nation who gave the world Rod Laver,Evonne Goolagong and The Woodies,it had largely been understood that their presence has done a fair bit of good for Asian tennis.
But it looks like that theory is set to change. Australia refused to send their Davis Cup team to Chennai for their third-round Davis Cup tie against India,a move which Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said was the federation’s own decision,as their government’s travel advisories do not include India under the category of countries to which all travel must be deferred or reconsidered.
The decision means the highly successful Davis Cup nation,which have picked up the prestigious trophy 28 times,forfeit their place in the World Group play-offs,apart from facing a fine,relegation and a possible ban.
Judging by the kind of justification given by Tennis Australia officials for their refusal to travel,it seems they need to get themselves a map of the world and of India,as well as a better ‘variety of sources’,which were giving them information about the security situation here,and which apparently formed the basis of their concerns.
With the kind of thorough scan done on the security of the venue,by the international association as well as the national federation,keeping in mind the concerns raised,the arrangements should have been good enough.
When All India Tennis Association secretary general Anil Khanna was first reported to have said that Lleyton Hewitt was probably not coming,the former world No 1’s camp created a huge furore,reiterating his commitment to the competition in no uncertain terms. But the emotions evoked then sound rather hollow when measured against the ultimate decision.
A theory doing the rounds is that Hewitt wouldn’t have liked a break in the form of a Davis Cup interruption in the current form he is enjoying,seeing that a good run is coming along after quite a while in his career,but even assuming selfishness isn’t the reason here,there is no doubt about the fact that it was the players who played a huge part in influencing the boycott.
Recently,Australia remained conspicuous by their absence at a junior event in Indonesia as well.
Calls have previously been raised to reconsider Australia’s membership of the Asia/Oceania group of nations,and if the only way they will take part in team competitions is by playing hosts and remaining ensconsed in the supposedly foolproof security of their own country,perhaps that extreme step begins to make sense,at least more than the Aussies’ refusal to take the flight to India.