Tennis: India's rebel stars seek government help

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's top tennis players on Thursday requested that the country's sports ministry step in and resolve a dispute that has kept them out of next month's Davis Cup tie against South Korea.

The 11 players, led by Somdev Devvarman, issued a statement saying they wanted the ministry to find out why they were omitted for the Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie in New Delhi from Feb 1-3.

"We have shared all relevant facts with the ministry and reiterated the lack of discussion and communication from the AITA (All-India Tennis Association) in relation to our suggestions," the statement said.

"We are hopeful of a beneficial and amicable outcome that would substantially change, for the better, the system of sports administration in India."

The players had refused to take part in the tie if the AITA did not accept a slew of demands put forward by them.

The AITA agreed to awarding the players a higher share of the prize money from Cup matches, the appointment of a full-time physiotherapist and the players' involvement in the choice of venues for ties.

But it declined to remove non-playing captain Shiv Mishra, as demanded by the players, who were also unhappy with the appointment of former Davis Cupper Zeeshan Ali as coach.

Among those supporting Devvarman's stance were senior players and household names Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, but former captain Leander Paes was not part of the group.

The AITA last week ignored the rebels and picked Paes, along with three unknown youngsters, V. M. Ranjith, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja, for the tie against the Koreans.

There was no immediate comment from AITA officials on the latest move by the players to approach the sports ministry.

The AITA, however, insisted it will not consider the rebel players for the Korean tie.

"The chapter for that tie is closed," AITA chief executive Hironmoy Chatterjee told reporters. "If these players make themselves available for the next tie in April, we will consider them on the basis of merit. We will not be vindictive."