In the best of times, the All India Tennis Association has been seen as a national sports federation that never helped players and did nothing to groom talent.As the soap opera in Indian tennis resumed last week, with similar scenes being enacted, it brought into focus how the AITA has only humiliated its own tennis stars.Agreed, for a moment, doubles tennis star Rohan Bopanna may have been rash in demanding an explanation from the AITA on non playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi being unceremoniously sacked. What followed was verbal volleys of the worst sort from AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee who said Bopanna had exceeded his brief.To my mind, players have only one brief to excel in their sport. Whether they play for the country in Davis Cup, Asian Games and the Olympics, or the ATP and WTA Tour, it is always for India. To slam Bopanna for exceeding his brief brought out the ugly side of tennis administrators in India.Mind you, this was not the first time a player was being humiliated. Rewind to 1993, just before the India vs Australia Davis Cup semi-final, AITA bosses Late RK Khanna and Ramesh Desai slammed Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes for demanding Rs 20 lakh each. What the two players had asked was for cumulative fees. In the end the money was paid, but after hefty tax deductions!Unlike many other sport at home, payments to tennis players for Davis Cup is meagre. Whatever is given is a pittance and nothing compared to what the cricketers get. If at all they get anything, for Davis Cup, it is only air travel and staying in decent hotels.advertisementMuch after the infamous 1993 Davis Cup incident, many more players faced AITA’s wrath from Leander to Mahesh and Somdev Devvarman to Bopanna. Why? Simply because they highlighted a few hard facts and AITA’s poor administration.Back to Bhupathi being sacked, it’s still baffling. He did nothing wrong and was certainly not leading any kind of trade union movement. If the players and he decided not to travel to Pakistan, it was purely on security concerns.The AITA has later tried to make up by saying Bhupathi is welcome but no Indian worth his salt will come back to help Indian tennis. After all, even Ramesh Krishnan decided to move out as non playing captain when it was getting messy.To be sure, the list of non playing and playing captains who have been insulted, sacked or made to leave is long. Vijay Amritraj, Naresh Kumar, Jaidip Mukherjea, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, SP Misra, Anand Amitraj and Bhupathi were all victims of AITA’s high-handed approach.One thought with Anil Khanna at the helm, things would change. It has been just the same, even though, officially he is just life president now. What has happened is new people have come to head the AITA and none has development of players in mind or giving respect to captains.Compared to another racquet sport like badminton, tennis has been a poor sport in terms of development and grooming talent. Each player who has risen to the top has done so on own efforts, be it Sania Mirza, Somdev or more recently talented Sumit Nagal and Karman Kaur Thandi.The AITA has no national coaching programme like the badminton federation and there is no player of P.Gopichand stature who is grooming talent. The AITA has coaches and captains for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup but these are all very miniscule part-time roles.While badminton, wrestling, boxing and other sport gain from the government’s funding, national camps and tournaments abroad, tennis has no such plans. It is easy for the AITA to say the government does not support them but they have no proper blueprint in place.There are any number of tennis coaching shops in the country, with most functioning as a money-spinning racket. Why the AITA has hugely ignored the national tennis circuit is also a mystery. Earlier, three nationals used to take place, on grass, clay and hard courts. What happens now is a Fenesta Open which is fully funded by the Fenesta group in the Capital.Bhupathi has gone and Rohit Rajpal is the captain for the tie against Pakistan. He has spoken loquaciously about being ready to pick a racquet or a gun for national duty against Pakistan. Such kind of immature talk was simply not needed.As one who is president of the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association as well, Rajpal can offer us insight into what he has done to produce champions in the Capital.advertisementOne thing is to be harsh and quite another to take people along. When it comes to medal projections for the Olympics and Asian Games in meetings with the sports ministry, the AITA will talk big. The eternal doubles medal in Olympics has been talked of for two decades.Again, next year, before the Tokyo Olympics, should one player Divij Sharan or Bopanna be in the ATP top 10 ranking, there will be talk of a doubles medal. Mind you, these are the players who slog on their own week after week.If you cannot respect them and support them, at least do not humiliate them. As a national sports federation, the AITA ranks in the bottom in terms of its own performance. Perhaps, that is why when it comes to grants from the government and even national awards, the tennis players have to suffer.