ISLAMABAD-Pakistan tennis ace Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi feels that Pakistan team has 40 to 60 chances of carving out victory against Republic of Korea team in the tough Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-I tie starting from tomorrow (Friday) here at Pakistan Sports Complex grass courts.

Addressing a press conference, Aisam said: “Off course, nobody takes the tie easy. Although we have home advantage and our favourite grass surface, best doubles pair and best track record, yet people must also remember that we are now almost 38, while Koreans are in early 20s, playing in circuit regularly and have tough and challenging team.

“But on the other hand, I must give credit to Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) for maintaining grass courts in excellent shape, keeping in mind it’s Aqeel and mine favourite ground. We are looking forward to once again spearhead the challenge, like we are giving it more than 100 percent from last two decades. We have two players in shape of Abid Ali Akbar, who is playing at USA, while youngster Muzammil is selected for the very first time, but he is good and we need youngsters to replace us,” he added.

“It is good for us that the matches are three-setter instead of five-seters. We are too old now and three-set means we have more chances of wrapping it up. We would go all-out attacking and try to put opposition under pressure. It is most likely that Aqeel and I would be involved in the opening day singles matches and try to provide Pakistan perfect start,” Aisam said.

When this scribe asked Aqeel how long the PTF will depend on him and Aisam to deliver and when they start producing fresh talent, Aqeel held both players and federation equally responsible. “The youngsters are not working hard as they just want to become No 1 without any struggle and hard work. I have never taken any special benefit from the federation and played my entire tennis in Pakistan. I could have earned millions by playing abroad, but I always preferred my country. The youngsters must come up with clear mentality and should aim at winning Asian and international level matches instead of focusing on just local events.”

He said: “I personally don’t think that 3-set format is good for us, as I feel it adds more pressure on Aisam and me. Other countries can afford to give rest to their players and adopt rotation policy, while we don’t have that luxury. After playing on day one, we wouldn’t get time to take rest, as the tie is cut short from 3 to 2 days format according to new ITF rules, but we will try to give our level best.”

To a query regarding including fifth player in the team, which according to new rules is allowed, Aqeel said it is federation’s decision and in my personal opinion, we must have fifth player.

Abid Ali Akbar said he had worked in USA just to gather money to fulfill his dream of playing tennis. “I earned money and save it to feature in ITF Futures and only last year, I spent Rs 800,000 on playing in Europe. I took time from coaching in USA and played in circuits for 4 weeks during summer and one week during winter.

“If someone provide me sponsorship, I am ready to play tennis in Pakistan. Tennis is my passion and the federation provided me tickets for trials and to represent the country in Davis Cup tie. I have never asked anyone for finances. I am 27 and at this age, majority of players are married, but tennis is my first love so I have sacrificed everything just for it. I know there would be huge pressure on me, but I will try my best to win the tie for Pakistan,” he added.

Muzammil said he would try to benefit from the opportunity. “I am playing very well throughout the last year and played finals against Aqeel. I feel I am ready for the biggest stage and if given chance, I won’t disappoint the nation and federation.”

Non-playing captain Hameed-ul-Haq looked satisfied with his available options and said he didn’t talk to the federation for inclusion of fifth player. “During my playing days, we had played with three rather than four players. These 4 are the best at the moment and I am looking forward to ensure my players perform according to plan.”

Earlier, Korean team also held press conference at the same venue, where the entire team, along with non-playing captain Jae Sik Kim, was present. Replying to a query, Kim said they had not a single grass court in Korea and they arrived earlier to practice at these courts. “We have young and balanced team and my boys will play according to plan. Yes, they have not much experience of playing on grass courts, but they are regularly playing at international level. They are determined and they would provide perfect start to our campaign.”

The captain said the weather in Korea is normal, so Islamabad’s cold weather is not much worrying for them. “Our main strength is singles, as we know Pakistan has tough doubles pair in shape of Aisam and Aqeel. We will try to take advantage by winning singles on opening day.

“As far as security is concerned, the PTF has provided us the best security and there is nothing to worry about it. We are focused on our game. Pakistan is a tough opponent and in my personal opinion, both the teams have equal chances winning the tie,” Kim concluded.



Pakistan and Korea players pose for photo after holding separate press conferences prior to their Davis Cup tie at Pakistan Sports Complex grass courts.–Photo by Staff Reporter