Australian Davis Cupper Masters recalls trip to Chennai

April 28th, 2009 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Davis Cup Sydney, April 28 (IANS) Former Australian Davis Cupper Geoff Masters Tuesday supported Tennis Australia’s (TA) decision not to send the team to India, while recalling how his team decided to play the tie in Madras in 1973 despite a death threat.
Masters said they were informed of a life threat issued by a group called ‘Black September’ two days before the start of the tie.

On their arrival at the team hotel after the practice in Madras, Masters remembers being greeted by captain Neale Fraser and a small but serious looking policeman.

“He (policeman) was introduced to us as the head of Interpol for Asia and told us that there had been a death threat issued against the team by a group known as Black September,” Masters was quoted as saying in The Australian Tuesday.

“I remember we all went pretty silent. We were looking at each other not really knowing what to say. I was a 22-year-old playing Davis Cup, so my career was really in its infancy and this was supposed to be the most exciting time of my life. Then we got hit with this.”

Given the threat came just 12 months after the same group’s horrific attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed, the Australians were understandably shaken.

“Basically, Interpol guaranteed our safety but we were then given the option of whether to stay and play or go,” Masters said.

“We talked a lot and because the tie was still a couple of days away from starting we said we would give the security guys a couple of days to prove that they could provide us with a level of security that was satisfactory.

“They did that. We had the whole level of a hotel to ourselves surrounded by a team of guards, 24/7. We were escorted by the army in a huge convoy to and from our hotel to the arena. Even if we needed to go to the bathroom we were taken there by a couple of guards armed with automatic weapons.”

The Australians eventually went on to win the tie.

“I empathise enormously with the players and Tennis Australia and I have no hesitation saying that in the same circumstance, where you have security people saying they cannot guarantee the players safety, there is no other choice but to refuse to go,” Masters said.

However, Masters is adamant the current instability in India leading up to the election, has left TA with no choice and warned the International Tennis Federation (ITF) against a heavy-handed punishment.

“I don’t think there is any reasonable person out there who would expect a national team to go and compete in a place where their safety was not assured,” Masters said.

“I think the ITF will find themselves facing a big backlash if they come down heavily on Australia for this decision.

“The tennis fraternity is a very tight-knit community and I know around the world they would understand Australia did not take this decision lightly.”

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