ISLAMABAD - History repeats itself as the longest serving player of Pakistan tennis Aqeel Khan once again helped the country beat Thailand’s Kittiphong Wachiramanowong 3-2 in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-II Final second reverse singles match here at Pakistan Sports Complex grass courts on Sunday.

Aqeel once again proved that he is the real hero of the country as he has proved his mettle when it mattered the most as winning the reverse singles against Thai player was must to win the Davis Cup final and in case of Aqeel’s failure, Pakistan couldn’t move into the Group-I, but credit goes to Aqeel who not only saved the country’s honour but also helped it enter the next stage with great honour.

Earlier, Aqeel did this wonder 15 years ago against China, 14 years back against South Korea and 13 years ago against New Zealand and now, he has done it again against Thailand in 5-setter tough game. With this sublime performance of Aqeel, Pakistan has once again moved into the Group-I.

After the Aisam’s first reverse singles 2-3 defeat against Thailand’s Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul, the crowd was not in a mood to witness another defeat on the special day for Pakistan, as they came in huge numbers to support the national team and want Pakistan win the tie. It was do-or-die for the hosts, as Aqeel had to win, because earlier due non-playing captain M Khalid’s poor planning and coward approach, Pakistan lost the doubles match. Khalid opted to give rest to Aisam/Aqeel and instead picked Shahzad/Abid to carry the day. The move badly flopped and Pakistan was almost on the brink of losing the final, before Aqeel prevailed and ensured host nation ends on winning note.

In the final reverse singles, a royal battle was witnessed between Aqeel and Kittiphong. The Thai player broke very first serve of Aqeel, who broke the second while the Thai player again broke third game of Aqeel, but after that, it was all Aqeel, who broke 6th and then 10th game of Kittiphong to take first set 6-4 in 40 minutes. Aqeel was at his supreme best in the second set, which he won the set 6-3 in 42 minutes by breaking third and 8th games of Kittiphong, but after playing so well, Aqeel went out of gas and lost the third 3-6 in 30 minutes and then fourth 2-6 in 26 minutes.

Sensing possible danger, the crowd started cheering Aqeel and the magical words did the trick for Pakistan, as Aqeel, who was down and out, suddenly started playing the best game of his life and simply brushed aside Kittiphong in the fifth and final set 6-2 in 35 minutes to help Pakistan register landmark triumph.

As soon as Aqeel won the match, he bowed down on the ground to thank Allah Almighty while the entire venue was erupted with ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans and starting raising slogans in favour of Aqeel and Pakistan. There highly emotional scenes were also witnessed as some of the spectators were crying in joy.

International Tennis Federation (ITF) match referee Massimo Morelli presented gold medals to Pakistan team while Salim Saifullah announced Rs Rs 500,000 for the winning team. Aqeel and Aisam said the victory was made possible due to entire nation’s prayers while M Khalid attributed the triumph to Pakistani nation.

Earlier, as per prediction, the coward and overcautious approach of Pakistan Davis Cup team captain M Khalid cost Pakistan dearly as ace international player Aisam-ul-Haq, despite putting up a brave show, lost 2-3 against Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul in the crucial first reverse singles match which was played for more than 4 hours and it was cramps and lot of pain, which ultimately took its tool, as Aisam melt under severe heat in 5-set marathon encounter, which was highly appreciated by the pack to capacity crowd at the make-shift seating arrangements made by the federation.

The PTF issued too many passes, which left the journalists and families with no other option but to watch the match standing or sitting on the floor. Despite given assurance by the PTF president regarding providing proper seats and drinking water to sports journalists, nothing was done and they were left at the mercy of severe heat to cover their professional duties.

Thailand was also enjoying sizable crowd support, as Thai embassy staff along with families and students of Thailand, who are studying at International Islamic University in Islamabad also came in huge numbers to support their team and kept on raising slogans for their team.