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Australia forfeits Davis Cup match

4/25/2009 - Tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Australia will not send its
Davis Cup team to India for next month's tie because of
security concerns, Tennis Australia (TA) said on Saturday,
leaving the country facing a year-long ban and a $100,000 fine.

The ITF, in a statement on the Davis Cup Web site, declared India the winner by forfeit and said it regretted TA's decision. India advances to the next round of the World Group playoffs, in September.

"The Davis Cup Committee in due course
will decide any sanctions to be assessed against Australia
according to the regulations of the 2009 competition," the statement said.

Under Davis Cup rules, TA now could be fined and banned from the
competition for 12 months.

TA had appealed the International Tennis Federation's (ITF)
decision to keep the May 8-10 Asia/Oceania group I tie in
Chennai, citing security concerns.

Voting in the India general election finishes three days after
the matches. Cricket's Indian Premier League was moved to South
Africa because of concerns that the election would stretch India's
security contingents.

The ITF on Friday, however, rejected the appeal and upheld
the decision of the Davis Cup committee to keep the tie in the
southern Indian city, which is considered by Indian authorities
to be a safe destination.

"The ITF decision has left us with no other option," Tennis
Australia president Geoff Pollard said in a statement. "We cannot send the team. It is extremely disappointing. It
would be irresponsible of us to send our players into an area
of such high risk. Davis Cup is very important to us but some
things are more important than tennis."

The ITF had based its original decision to keep the tie in
India after a review by its security consultants.

Security in the sub-continent has been called into question
following the ambush of the Sri Lanka cricket team's bus in
Lahore, Pakistan, last month.

India also remains nervous after Islamist militants killed
more than 150 people in a three-day attack in Mumbai in
November, but sports minister Manohar Singh Gill was
disappointed by the decision.

"Australia should have come and played," he said in a
statement. "It is also, in my view, not correct to take quick
and unjustified objections to playing in certain parts of the
world, and by implication implying, that we, in future, play
all sports, in certain other countries only. This is not likely
to happen."

Gill also said it was unfair to equate the situation in India with that of Pakistan.

"Since independence our sports events have been incident-
free and enjoyed by the people," Gill said. "Our
assertions have been found more than satisfactory by the
Davis Cup committee and by the world tennis federation."

Australia's Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald said he was
angry with the ITF and pointed to events surrounding the
election that suggested security forces were being stretched.

"It is just irresponsible. Surely some thought must be
given to the players' safety," Fitzgerald said. "I believe they say the election is not a cause for
concern, the IPL moving is not relevant and that an ATP
tournament held in January shows it is safe to play in Chennai.

"So what about the fact that dozens of people are being
killed along the campaign trail of the election? A train was
hijacked this week, but that does not alter their thoughts? This decision makes no sense. We have worked so hard to get back in to World Group contention, to have it snatched away
like this is gut-wrenching."

Three weeks ago the ITF banned the city of Malmo from
hosting future Davis Cup ties for five years and fined Swedish
tennis officials $25,000 after Sweden decided to stage
the World Group tie against Israel behind closed doors.

"It interests me that though the UK has had terrorist
incidents, Australia will be going for the Ashes cricket in
May, and play before crowds of 30,000 or more, with obvious
security concerns," Gill said.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.