Stunned AITA promises thorough probe

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New Delhi, Jan 22 (UNI) Shaken by Mahesh Bhupathi's allegation that he was approached to fix a result as far back at the mid 1990s, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) today promised a thorough probe into the issue saying, ''It is a very serious matter which involves the country's prestige.'' ''We have taken Mahesh's reported allegation very seriously,'' AITA secretary Anil Khanna said here today.

''It is not a simple allegation,it is a very grave charge, it affects Indian tennis,'' Khanna said.

''It is the first time that we heard about such thing from a Indian tennis player,'' he said, but added,'' I strongly believe that Indian tennis is absolutely clean.'' Bhupathi yesterday told Reuters he had been contacted by telephone and asked to throw a Davis Cup match early in his career.

''I haven't been approached in the context of an ATP (tournament). I was approached maybe 10, 12 years ago, in the context of Davis Cup in India,'' the winner of 10 grand slam titles in men's doubles and mixed doubles said in an interview.

''I immediately changed my phone numbers and I never got that call again. It definitely freaked me out.'' Anil Khanna, who is also the president of the Asian Tennis Assocation said he will have talk with all he players on this issue, ''We will like to understand if other players have had any such experiece.'' Reuters quoted Bhupathi as saying that scandals were tarnishing the reputation of tennis.

''It's sad, terrible for the sport,'' he said.

''I wish the ATP could find as many ways as they can to control it. (There is) so much money at stake and so many different avenues the players can use.

''So I am glad that they are punishing players now, so guys will at least get a little more weary. Tennis is a great sport,we must find ways to protect it.'' Khanna said that the tie about which Mahesh was talking about was the Davis Cup fixture gainst Holland which ''we won and Mahesh won both his singles in that tie.'' ''We are very determined to keep the game clean, I can say with all responsibility that there has never been any match fixing or match throwing by the Indian team or any player in the Davis Cup.

The results of all the Davis cup matches involving India speak for themselves.'' ''I have not yet spoken to Mahesh, I will like to talk to him, will like to know why he did not inform the AITA or team captain (Jaieep Mukherjee, at that time) about such a grave matter,'' he said.

Khanna admitted that Mahesh's allegation are ''very serious and very bad for Indian sports especially tennis. We will inquire into the whole episode to protect the image of the nation.'' UNI HSB AB RN1713

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