By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spain's new Davis Cup captain Gala Leon shrugged off "sexist debate" about her appointment on Tuesday and said her only concern was taking the team back to the top of the sport.
Leon, who had a career-high ranking of 27 as a player, was the 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 play-off.
"Everyone has the right to say what they think. I am not here to create a sexist debate but to help the Davis Cup team to return to the World Group and (ensure) that the trophy returns home soon," Leon told a news conference.
Leon previously held the role of sports director at the Spanish tennis federation and has now become captain after initially being given the role of looking for a successor to Moya.
The appointment of Leon immediately led to a flood of criticism in Spain, including from Rafa Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni Nadal.
"In recent years when you look at decisions like these there have been consultations with players, which I think is right, but in this case it hasn’t happened," Toni Nadal told Spanish radio.
"I have nothing personal against her. I don't know her capabilities and I hope she does well. But at first sight she doesn't know men's tennis. If you told me she had been involved for the last 10 years on the men's circuit, then I would say it was normal.
"I am not being chauvinist. Anyone who says that doesn't know what the word means. Having said that, I am a bit stuck in the past when I see a woman in the men's dressing room. I accept that I am a bit old-fashioned but you can't say I'm being chauvinist."
Britain's double grand slam champion Andy Murray, who broke the mould earlier this year by engaging former French player Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, came out in support of Leon however.
"Congrats to Gala Leon Garcia for becoming first female Spanish Davis Cup captain today... hopefully first of many," said the Scot on Twitter.
Leon's task now will be to take charge of Spain's Europe/Africa Zone campaign next year.
(Reporting by Tim Hanlon, Editing by Neville Dalton)