LONDON (Reuters) - The feud between the Spanish tennis federation and top players over Gala Leon's appointment as the nation's first female Davis Cup captain is damaging for the sport and could deter sponsors, Rafa Nadal said on Saturday.
Nadal and compatriots like David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo reacted with disbelief when the federation (RFET) announced Leon's appointment in September, prompting accusations they objected to her because she is a woman.
Leon, who had a career-high ranking of 27 as a player, was a surprise choice to replace Carlos Moya, who stood down after the five-times Davis Cup winners were relegated from the World Group following defeat against Brazil in a playoff.
The spat, which has largely been conducted through the media, has put the players' participation in next month's Group I second round match against Russia in doubt, when Spain need a win to secure a place in the playoffs for the elite World Group.
"The situation is terrible," Nadal told a news conference ahead of next week's Wimbledon tournament.
"All these things that are happening cause damage to tennis, to the desire sponsors might have to invest in our sport, to the excitement that kids might have in continuing to play," added the 14-times grand slam champion.
Finding a solution to the standoff has been complicated by a conflict between the government sports council (CSD), which has also questioned Leon's appointment, and RFET president Jose Luis Escanuela.
Spain's disciplinary committee for sports (TAD) last week suspended Escanuela for one month for failing to collaborate in a probe into the federation's finances.
The CSD says it is attempting to track down what happened to at least 700,000 euros ($781,550) the RFET paid out in transactions linked to the Spanish Tennis Foundation and the Spanish Tennis Observatory.
Nadal did not say whether he would make himself available for the July 17-19 match against Russia in Vladivostok but hinted that his participation was unlikely.
"A country with many players in the top 100 should not be in the second division and be experiencing the situation that probably will happen with the Russia tie," he told reporters.
"Personally, I find it a shame and frustrating that it is like this.
"The Spanish tennis federation for us is nothing, we don't depend on the federation."
Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Pritha Sarkar