A Short History of Cup Withdrawals

Tennis Australia made an incredibly difficult decision last week when its president, Geoff Pollard, announced that the Australian Davis Cup team would not travel to Chennai, India to compete against India in Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group due to security concerns. The International Tennis Federation, the global governing tennis body that runs the Davis Cup, is expected to levy sanctions and/or a fine against Australia for their refusal to play, despite receiving a copy of the ITF’s satisfactory advanced security report for the series. The pull-out of the 23-time Davis Cup champion Australians, however, is not the biggest episode of a nation refusing to play against another nation in history of the competition.

Geoff Pollard of Tennis Australia

Geoff Pollard of Tennis Australia

In 1974, ironically, it was India that created the biggest stir in Davis Cup history with its refusal to play when it forfeited the 1974 Davis Cup Final to South Africa in protest to South Africa’s apartheid policies. The withdrawal of the final was made on Oct. 4, 1974, when R.K. Khanna, secretary of the All-India Lawn Tennis Federation said “The principle of opposing apartheid is more important than a tennis championship. The South African Tennis Federation, according to the New York Times, actually offered to play the final at a neutral site or even in a black African state. Khanna said that under no circumstances would it play South Africa, even if the final was held in India. After some talk to expel both South Africa and India from the competition, ultimately, neither faced any sanction, although, due to continued controversies regarding nations refusing to play South Africa, the ITF eventually expelled South Africa from Davis Cup play until the nation rid itself of its racist policies. By “winning” the 1974 Davis Cup, South Africa became the fifth nation to win the Davis Cup – joining the “Big Four” Grand Slam nations – the United States, Great Britain, Australia and France.

Another notable “Cup” withdrawal came in 2001, when the U.S. Tennis Association refused to send its defending champion Fed Cup team to Spain to compete in Spain. Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, the USTA was not satisfied with the security plans of the Spanish Tennis Federation and the International Tennis Federation and did not risk sending its team overseas to compete. ”At this time, we didn’t want to have high-profile athletes waving an American flag in a team competition abroad,” said Arlen Kantarian, the chief executive of the U.S.T.A. at the time to Selena Roberts of the New York Times. ”We had to take into account all the elements to this situation. Even if the risk was only 1 percent, in our view, that was too much.” The USTA was allowed by the ITF to compete in the event the following year, but was issued an ITF fine for its withdrawal.

In 1999, due to the war in the Balkans, the USA vs. Croatia Fed Cup series was moved from Croatia to the United States.