ISLAMABAD-Pakistan’s longest serving No 1 tennis player Aqeel Khan has said that the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) should timely finalise third and fourth players through trials and start training camp for Thailand Davis Cup tie very soon.

Talking to The Nation, Aqeel said: “There is a very little time left before starting the mega Davis Cup tie against Thailand but our tennis season is off from the last two months, with only exception of one event held in Lahore last month, so it would take extra efforts from Pakistani players to be able to beat their opponents in the upcoming tie. Thailand players are regularly playing the ITF and ATP events and their brother duo of Sanchai Ratiwatana and Sonchat Ratiwatana, who are playing alongside Aisam in major tournaments, is in great form.

“I strongly recommend the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) to start training camp immediately for Davis Cup tie as already too much time has been wasted. Beating Thailand is not an easy task. Although we have home advantage, yet we have to work very hard to win the final and earn the right of playing in the Davis Cup Group-I next year. We need to focus on producing players both male and females to stand realistic chances of doing well at international level, otherwise, future of Pakistan tennis looks highly bleak,” he added.

Aqeel said: “The grass is preferred surface for us, as both Aisam and me had enjoyed tremendous success on grass courts and in fact, we never lost as doubles partners on grass. Yes, we are facing huge problem of finding number three and four players. I feel Abid Ali Akbar and Samir Iftikhar have golden chances of playing in the trial matches and grab the positions on offer.

“I feel, all the players should be given equal chances. The federation should invite all the top players for trials and top two finishers will book their spot in the final four. Yasir Khan’s professional career has almost over. After getting frustrated like my brother Jaleel Khan, Yasir has also decided to apply his luck abroad and after finishing my playing days, I will also move abroad,” he added.

When asked about progress on his proposed academy and whether Sindh and federal governments had released land for the academy, Aqeel replied: “No, I am still running from post to pillar to get that piece of land allocated. Had the land was allocated to me, I could have long started work on producing future stars. Pakistan tennis is going through difficult period as we don’t have even handful of players but no heed was paid to my request. “I once again request to the Sindh chief minister and governor to pay heed to this issue of grave importance for the country and allocate land, where I could construct state-of-the-art tennis academy, which would be in great benefit for future generations. Without working on grassroots level, we won’t be able to maintain status of playing even in Group-II, playing in Group-I or world group will not more than the day dreaming,” he added.

When asked whether he is interested to establish his tennis academy in Islamabad, Aqeel replied: “There are already too many coaches in Islamabad and a very few students, who want to play tennis while politics is also on the rise. If I start academy in Islamabad, I have to train coaches more than students.”