Well Done, Boys
By Majid Khan

Unknown too many Pakistanis, the country’s tennis team is now among the top 16 in the world.
Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan delivered an historic performance when Pakistan defeated Taiwan to progress, for the first time ever, into the World Group play-offs of the Davis Cup. In doing so, Pakistan today stands, shoulder to shoulder, with the top 16 tennis playing nations in the world.
Pakistan recorded this historic feat on Sunday last, on the grass courts of Lahore’s Defence Club. Pakistan virtually outplayed Taiwan, 4-1, in the three-day Asia Oceania Zone Group One semifinal. And as usual, it was left to the two stars of Pakistan tennis, Aisam and Aqeel Khan, who gave extraordinary performances. It was a repeat of their performance in March earlier this year when they downed the formidable Thailand team 3-2.
Never before have we succeeded in booking a place for ourselves in the World Group qualifiers. Rather, for years now, Pakistan had struggled to avoid relegation from Group One to Group Two. In fact, it was only last year when Pakistan struggled to a 3-2 success against New Zealand in the play-off in Islamabad.
Pakistan gained a 2-1 lead as Aisam and Aqeel won the doubles but losing the first reverse singles by Aisam put Pakistan at the verge of relegation.
However, Aisam who is currently ranked 215th in the world, led Pakistan from the front. First, in the competition against the Thais, he carved out the biggest victory of his career when he beat Thailand’s ace and world no 33, Paradorn Srichapan in the first reverse singles in a hard fought two-hour-40 minute battle. Aisam is in the form of his life. So far he has remained unbeatable in the matches that he’s played against Thailand and Taiwan. His partner in this march to victory has been Aqeel who has also performed well. But it is the doubles combination with Aisam that has proved lethal and has grown in maturity with the pair winning their ties against Thailand and Taiwan.
Last month, Aisam and Aqeel also excelled in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Saudi Arabia by winning three gold and a bronze medal that helped Pakistan onto the medals table. Pakistan won the team gold, men’s doubles title and the men’s singles final through Aisam. The losing semifinalist, Aqeel, got the bronze.
Sunday’s victory in Lahore was a matter of great pride and immense satisfaction. The nation is looking forward with great hope that the PTF will build on the victories and such memorable moments will become common in the future.
The PTF should work out a plan for establishing permanent coaching centers in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta. Services of foreign coaches should be acquired, if possible through the PSB. A good number of foreign coaches are attached with different national sports federations and Cuban coaches have been providing training to our boxers for more than a decade. Let the PTF seek the services of foreign coach through the PSB.
However, a sad thing about Pakistan’s historic victory in Lahore was that it was ignored by the state-run PTV. It was a poor reflection on those who matter most in seeking sponsorship. The organizers, it was reported failed to provide the required facilities to the media to carry out their professional commitments. Whatever the reason, tennis fans missed a great action-packed thriller.
In the Davis Cup ties, neighboring India too won and regained its place in World Group play-offs with an impressive 5-0 victory over Uzbekistan at its home court in Jaipur. The other 14 countries in the play-offs are Spain, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Chile, Sweden, Belarus, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Belgium and Ecuador. The next round of the David Cup will be held from September 23 to September 25.
According to available information, Pakistan will be pitted against either the USA or Spain, this coming September. Both are formidable opponents.
Nevertheless, success in the Islamic Games’ tennis and entering the World Group play-offs are milestones in our tennis history. Aisam has already been honored with the President’s Pride of Performance Award on the recommendation of the PTF. The Federation should also recommend such an award for Aqeel who under very hard and trying conditions stood the challenge to contribute to Pakistan’s entry in the World Group play-offs for the first time ever.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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