Australia facing Davis Cup ban

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The Independent Online

Australia could be suspended from the Davis Cup for a year after refusing to travel to Chennai next month to play India. Tennis Australia's decision, based on security concerns, will lead to sanctions by the International Tennis Federation, which had given the tie the go-ahead.

Having failed in a request for the match, from 8 to 10 May, to be staged at a neutral venue, Tennis Australia said it had been given "no other option" than to withdraw. It had "major security concerns" for the players, particularly during the Indian elections, which finish three days after the tie.

There has been concern about security on the subcontinent in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai last November and after the Sri Lankan cricket team were attacked in Lahore last month. Some sporting events have been moved or cancelled, most notably cricket's Indian Premier League, which was switched to South Africa. Australia's decision raises fears of more boycotts.

Indian government and tennis officials insisted that there were no safety issues in Chennai, while the ITF's own security experts had given the southern Indian city a clean bill of health.

In announcing that India had been awarded the tie and would advance to the World Group play-offs, the ITF said it "regrets and respectfully disagrees" with Australia's position.

Anil Khanna, secretary of the All India Tennis Association and president of the Asian Tennis Federation, accused Tennis Australia of "arrogance and irresponsibility" and said the decision was based on ignorance.

Australia face a possible 12-month ban, a fine of up to $100,000 (around £68,000) or relegation to Asia/Oceania Group Two. Five years ago Denmark were relegated but not suspended after refusing to play Algeria in Algiers for security reasons.

Rafael Nadal (top) won his fifth successive Barcelona Open title when he beat David Ferrer 6-2, 7-5 in yesterday's final. Nadal goes into this week's Rome Masters on the back of 25 successive victories on clay and with only four defeats in his last 146 matches on the surface. Andy Murray plays Nicolas Kiefer or a qualifier in his first match and thereafter is seeded to meet Marin Cilic, Nikolay Davydenko and Nadal in the semi-finals.