Player safety at Davis Cup ties a concern

DAVID LONG
Last updated 06:12 28/10/2012

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Tennis New Zealand is seeking advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Tennis Federation about whether it's safe to send a team to Lebanon and Pakistan early next year.

The loss to Chinese Taipei last weekend consigned New Zealand to Asia/Oceania Group 2 next year.

First up they are drawn to play Lebanon away in February, which they should win easily, after that in April they're away against Pakistan, who are expected to beat Sri Lanka in their first-round tie.

But there are acute security concerns in both countries. The New Zealand Government's safetravel.govt.nz website warns that there is an "extreme risk" in travelling to southern Lebanon, including Tripoli, and there is a "high risk" around the rest of the country. The site advises against all tourist and other non-essential travel to the nation.

Pakistan is labelled as "extreme risk", where "terrorism, kidnapping and sectarian violence present a significant risk to New Zealanders".

Lebanon hosted ties against Pakistan and Pacific Oceania this year and the ITF will make the initial decision about whether the tie will go ahead there or be moved to New Zealand or a neutral country.

"We're talking to the ITF at the moment about it," Tennis NZ chief executive Steve Johns said. "They have got people on the ground, who are assessing the situation and will decide whether the tie will remain in Lebanon or not.

"When the Pacific Oceania team went to Lebanon for a tie this year their thoughts from it were that the security and facilities were good.

"We'll continue to talk to them and a decision will need to be made shortly either way."

Tennis NZ will be talking to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about both ties to get their views on it, but Johns says his organisation will make the decision on whether to go. "If the ITF say they think it's safe and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say it's not advisable, it will come down to the board of Tennis NZ making a call on whether we send the team or not."

If Tennis NZ decide not to go after the ITF says it's safe, New Zealand will forfeit the tie and face the prospect of being fined, banned from the Davis Cup for a year, and relegated to Asia/Oceania Group 3.

Meanwhile, Johns says the organisation will carry out a review of this year's dismal Davis Cup campaign, in which New Zealand lost ties to Uzbekistan, India and Chinese Taipei.

"That will start on Monday when Marcel [Vos, Davis Cup captain] gets back into the office, but we need to have a look at what went on over the last two years. We want to talk to those players and will undertake an extensive review."

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- Sunday Star Times

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