Davis Cup: Sumit Nagal, Sasi Mukund refuse to travel to Pakistan

Sumit Nagal
Sumit Nagal is India's best-ranked singles player at No. 141 in the ATP chart. File photo: PTI

New Delhi: India's top two singles players Sumit Nagal and Sasi Kumar Mukund have conveyed to the national tennis federation that they won't travel to Pakistan for the next Davis Cup tie and the baffled All India Tennis Association (AITA) has decided to discuss the players' refusal at its next executive committee meeting.

Nagal is India's best-ranked singles player at No. 141 in the ATP chart and Mukund is second-best at No. 477.

The two players have conveyed their unavailability for the World Group I play-off tie to be played in February but have not specified the reason behind their decision.

It has been learnt that Nagal did not want to play because the tie will be held on grass courts, a surface that does not suit his game style. Mukund has opted out of the matches because of "personal reasons".

"Nagal had conveyed to the team management long back that he should not be considered for the tie against Pakistan because grass court is not his preferred surface," said an AITA source.

In the current scenario, India's challenge will be led by Ramkumar Ramanathan, who with his 'serve and volley' style is best-suited player for the tie, the winner of which will stay in World Group I for the year 2024.

The next best choice for India will be Digvijay Pratap Singh who had made his Davis Cup debut against Morocco in September this year.

Rohan Bopanna has already retired and India, without its top singles player Nagal will not be overwhelming favourite in the tie despite the fact that Pakistan's tennis is being carried by old and ageing horses Aqeel Khan and Aisam-ul-haq Quereshi.

AITA unhappy

AITA Secretary General reminded that the players should not think twice when it comes to national duty.

"This is wrong. When it's a question of serving the country why would you not do it? I have put the matter in the hands of the executive committee," Dhupar told PTI.

"There is no choice for players if they want to represent India. My theory is simple. But I am nobody to take a call. The call has to be taken by the executive committee. If the player is sick and injured, I can understand but this is not the first time that Mukund has made himself unavailable for national duty. He has done it twice," he added.

"Let the administrators of the country decide what's best for India." he said indicating that the AITA may come up with a Davis Cup selection policy.

Recently when Nagal had shared his financial struggles, he had got support from many quarters.

The corporates came forward and even the DLTA (Delhi Lawn Tennis Association) released Rs 5 lakh assistance to him.

India's non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal was even trying to get Nagal included in the TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) and it remains to be seen if his refusal to play for India affects that.

India had drawn Pakistan back in 2019 also but due to "security concerns" the Asia/Oceania Group I tie was shifted to Kazakhstan, a neutral venue.

As a mark of protest, Pakistan's top players Qureshi and Aqeel had opted not to play the tie in which rookies Mohammed Shoaib, Huzaifa Abdul Rehman and Yousaf Khalil competed for them.

India have made an effort this time again but the Davis Cup Committee has already rejected AITA's appeal.

"The Davis Cup Committee had rejected our proposal and we have now appealed against the decision to the tribunal. If we have to go to Pakistan, then we will go and will prepare well for the tie," Dhupar added.

Pakistan are keen to host the Indian team for the tie and the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has already said that it won't field a team if the contest is shifted this time.

Pakistan players are also keen to compete on the home soil against India.

If India decide to travel, it will be the Davis Cup team's first visit across the border in 59 years, and only third in the history of the team tournament.

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