The prospect of being sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) prompted the All India Tennis Association (AITA), the apex Indian tennis body, to agree to visit Pakistan for the Asia/Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie in September 2019. The tie – scheduled for 14th-15th September – would have been the first time since 1964 that India would have visited its neighbour and arch-rival to play the Davis Cup.
Up until last week, almost all details had been laid out. The venue had been decided – the tie was to be played on outdoor grass in Islamabad – and the visiting nation had announced its squad under the captaincy of Mahesh Bhupathi. And while security concerns remained a subject of discussion, they did not threaten any late-minute forfeiture of the tie.
The Cause of Problems, and the Aftermath
The Indian government’s decision to do away with a key article of the country’s constitution about its northern region of Jammu and Kashmir on 6th August, however, changed the dynamics of the Indo-Pak socio-political relationship yet again. On the said date, India’s home minister Amit Shah announced that Article 370 of the constitution would be abrogated. The Article, as it had come into effect in 1954 after being amended, gave Jammu and Kashmir special autonomy within the country’s geopolitical and social ambit. The Article was signed by the then ruler of the province Hari Singh who did not want to join either India or Pakistan at the time of India’s partition in 1947 after it gained independence from the British Empire.
Soon after India’s announcement, Pakistan – which regards Kashmir as its territory under Indian occupation – retaliated by snapping the existing diplomatic channels between the countries. It also approached the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) asking the UN body to take up the issue.
In India and globally, there is also fear that the Kashmir problem could thrust both nations into a war-like scenario yet again. Concerning sports, specifically tennis, in this case, the Indian tennis administration does not want its players to face any potential security threat in Pakistan on account of the altered landscape.
The AITA Stand
Yet, despite the worry of any possible breach of security, the AITA does not want to take any premature step vis-à-vis the tie either. On 9th August, when the author of this story spoke to the AITA, the association’s general-secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee said that the AITA was taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We are waiting for two more days,” said Chatterjee. “…I will wait for today because Saturday and Sunday, the ITF will be closed, so Monday (12th August), I will respond… (So) we will see the situation, how it turns in the next two days.”
Noting that the operations of the sole train service between the two nations had been stopped and the airspace between them had been closed by Pakistan, Chatterjee rued that the situation was “not very conducive at the moment”. According to him, if the diplomatic relationship between the sub-continental giants were to improve in the next couple of days, the Indian team would not fail to travel westwards.
“Thereafter (after two days), we will write to the ITF may be suggesting that looking at the situation they should (move the) tie to a neutral venue,” Chatterjee noted, emphasised that India was not considering forfeiting the tie at any cost. “We are very keen to play the tie because (it) is very important for us. There is a lot of difference at stake for them (Pakistan) and us. So, it is very important we play this tie.”
Finally, when asked if the AITA was worried about the ITF sanctioning Indian Davis Cup aspirations, Chatterjee unequivocally denied that the eventuality would come to that.
“It won’t come to that. It shouldn’t come to that because everyone knows the situation. The ITF also knows the situation,” he said before subtly punting the ball back onto the ITF’s side. “The ITF can’t put us into a situation where there is going to be a lot of anxiety. I don’t want that to happen. So, we will discuss it and will come to an amicable solution.”
Roger Federer Cast Doubt On Return To Davis Cup
The Swiss Maestro addresses his future in the team competition.
20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has admitted that there is a chance that he may not play in the Davis Cup again before he retires from the sport.
The former world No.1 hasn’t played in the team competition since 2015. This year the event has undergone a major revamp with the help of financial backing from investment company Kosmos. In November 18 teams will travel to Madrid and play in a week-long round-robin format. Removing the tradition of home and away ties. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will be playing in the event.
One of the most notable absentees from the event will be Federer as Switzerland hasn’t qualified for the finals. However, the 38-year-old has in the past voiced his concerns over Gerald Pique’s involvement. Pique is the founder of Kosmos.
“I put in a lot of energy into the Davis Cup over the years.” Federer told reporters in Shanghai.
“I played a lot of matches. It’s been a lot of work. Winning (the title) in 2014 was a dream come true for Stan and me and the team, and Rosset, even though he was not on the team, he thought it was the greatest thing ever, and it was.”
Federer has represented his country in 27 Davis ties during his career and has won 52 out of 70 matches played. He has won more matches in the competition than any other player from his country. Whilst boasting a strong record, Federer admits that he is uncertain about playing in the event again.
“I have not officially retired from the Davis Cup, so that means I don’t know what to tell you, maybe, but obviously more likely no than yes, as I’m getting older and I have other things I would like to also do and go to places I have never played before.” Federer replied when asked about his future in the Davis Cup.
“It’s one thing and then having the four children and the wife is another. I just can’t be everywhere. I always said when you play the Davis Cup you have to miss out on Masters 1000. Is that worth the give? Not always. Not for me anyway.”
In recent years Federer has applied his focus to another team event – the Laver Cup, which he co-founded. From 2020 there will be three team tournaments taking place on the men’s tour every year due to the revival in the ATP Cup in January.
“Federer was the only player reluctant to play this new Davis Cup.” Pique told Spanish TV programme e ’El Hormiguero’.
“He has the Laver Cup too and, whatever you say, there is bound to be some competition.
“It is not easy. We are there working and I think that in the end we will understand each other.”
The Davis Cup finals will get underway on November 18th at the Caja Magica, which is the venue of the Madrid Open. Meanwhile, at the same time Federer will be going on a tour of South America where he will play a series of exhibition matches. Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro will join him on parts of the tour.
Juan Martin Del Potro Hits Back At Claim Made By Pique Over Davis Cup Involvement
It had been claimed that the former top 10 player was pondering playing in Madrid later this year.
The team of former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro has denied that he has been involved in talks with Kosmos to play in the revamped Davis Cup later this year.
It had been claimed by Kosmos founder Gerard Pique that the Argentine has been in negotiations about playing the event, which has undergone a change in format. In November 18 teams will travel to Madrid to play in a week-long group competition. Similar to that of the football World Cup. A move that has divided opinion in the sport with critics arguing that the change is too radical.
“We are talking with Del Potro, (but) it obviously depends on the injury, see how he returns. But yes, we are in permanent contact with him.” Ubitennis’ Spanish-language site quoted Pique as saying.
Pique, who plays football for Barcelona F.C, was caught on audio saying the statement. However, it has now been suggested that he has either misspoken on even lied about del Potro. A statement issued by Del Potro’s communications team stated that no such thing has happened.
“TeamDelpo clarifies that there were no negotiations between the Kosmos Group and Juan Martin del Potro about the next Davis Cup in Madrid.” Their statement reads.
“We deny in this way the journalistic versions that speak of economic arrangements, “approaches”, “departures” or “concrete offers.”
The 30-year-old hasn’t played a match on the ATP Tour since injuring his knee at the Fever-Tree Championships in June. The latest setback for the injury-stricken player, who has undergone five surgeries since 2014. Del Potro is set to start his latest comeback in Europe at the Swedish Open, which will start on October 14th.
It has been rumoured that during the Davis Cup finals, Del Potro could play Roger Federer in an exhibition match in his home country on November 20th. Federer is another high-profile absentee from the team event. The potential clash has been reported by Argentinian journalist Danny Miche in his podcast. However, it is understood that nothing is finalised as of yet due to various economic factors.
There has been no response so far from Kosmos regarding Del Potro’s statement.
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Gerard Pique Sheds Light On Chances of Roger Federer Returning To Davis Cup
The Swiss maestro is the only member of the Big Three not to feature in the revamped event later this year.
There is a 50/50 chance that Roger Federer could play in next year’s Davis Cup finals, according to Kosmos founder Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona F.C. player has confirmed that talks are ongoing about the former world No.1 featuring in the historic event, which has been revamped this year. For the first time in it’s 119-year history, the finals will take place over a week and feature 18 teams taking part in a round-robin format. The change has split opinion in the sport, but was given the green light at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting last year. Pique’s investment company Kosmos is a key financial backer of the changes.
One notable absence from this year’s finals, which will be held in Madrid, is Federer. The former world No.1 has in the past been a critic of the new format. Once saying the tournament has been designed for ‘the future generation of players,’ but not him. He has also warned against the team competition being turned into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term the Spaniard is not a fan of.
“I wanted since the first moment I arrived in the tennis world, is to try to help this sport.” Pique said during an interview with Sport Business.
“Switzerland has not qualified for November so even if Roger wants to play in this event, he cannot, but we are talking with him and his agent to discuss the possibility to play in 2020.”
As is currently stands, Federer is the only member of the big three not to be playing. Rafael Nadal has vowed to play if healthy and Novak Djokovic announced his attendance on the eve of the US Open. The Serbian had previously expressed his reservations over participating due to its close proximity to the ATP Cup, another team event that will kick-off in January.
“I just feel like the date of the Davis Cup is really bad, especially for the top players. Between the two, I will prioritize the World Team Cup because that’s a competition of ATP.” The world No.1 said last year.
So why has Djokovic decided to play in Madrid? When asked in Flushing Meadows he said he wanted to represent his country. However, Pique believes there is more to it than that. Saying that he had managed to persuade the Serbian following conversations between the two.
“I said to him, ‘I know you are an ATP player but at the same time you represent the federation of Serbia, which is part of the ITF which invests in young talent and the future of tennis. I think it makes total sense that you participate in both competitions because it is a message that at the end of the day that you want [for the ATP and ITF] to work together.”
One criticism of the event is the timing of the finals. They will take place between November 18-24, the week after the ATP Finals in London. Partly eating into what is already a relatively short off-season for many players on the tour.
ITF President David Haggerty is hoping that negotiations over a potential change in dates can be made in the future with the new leader of the ATP. Current CEO Chris Kermode will be leaving his position later this year after failing to receive enough backing in a ATP board meeting.
“There is leadership change coming and once that’s completed we will continue discussions to see what’s the best date.” Haggerty outlined.
“We need to have the first Davis Cup finals in November and the ATP Cup will be in January and then we will have more facts and have a good discussion.”
The inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica. The same venue as the Madrid Open, which takes place annually in May.
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