ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will play home Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-II tie to be held from March 3 against Kuwait at the neutral venue of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Talking to The Nation, Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president Salim Saifullah Khan confirmed that due to security concerns, the Kuwait Tennis Federation (KTF) had refused to send their team to play Davis Cup tie in Pakistan. “I have talked to Kuwait tennis officials and also the International Tennis Federation (ITF) president in London and tried to persuade them to play tie in Pakistan, but due to security fear and especially Peshawar incident, they preferred to play at neutral venue.”

“I am very thankful to Sri Lankan Tennis Federation (STF) which accepted our request to allow us to play home tie at the natural venue of Colombo clay courts. It will suit our players, as I know it will be very costly and we have to spend more than we get even after winning the tie, but PTF secretary Rehmani and patron Senator Dilawar Abbas played active role and persuade Sri Lanka to allow us utilize their facilities,” he added.

“I will soon meet with Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Islamabad to request for special favour in this regard, as Sri Lanka will cost us around Rs 3.2 million, and we will try to bring that to two or 2.2 million as cheaper as possible,” Salim said.

He added: “I am quite hopeful, the situation will improve soon and international teams and players will start come thick and fast to play in Pakistan.”

When asked why Sri Lanka was preferred for the neutral venue, Salim replied: “Our players have the experience of playing on the Colombo clay courts, and secondly, the conditions are almost identical to our country and thirdly and most importantly, Sri Lanka is relatively cheaper than other venues, as last time, Pakistan played Davis Cup tie against New Zealand at Myanmar, and it was very expensive and the tie was awarded against Pakistan despite the fact that we were in commanding position. Sri Lanka is far better and closer to other destinations, but we will mainly focus on ensuring the next Davis Cup home ties should be played at our own backyard. I am working on that and soon people and tennis lovers will hear good news in this regard.”

“I will use all my international relations and contacts to ensure no more step-motherly treatment with Pakistan tennis when it comes to hosting the ITF, the ATF or Davis Cup ties in the country are concerned. We will do whatever we can to make sure the events will in Pakistan, which will help our players get maximum opportunities to showcase their skills in front of their home crowd. Tennis in Pakistan is suffering a great deal and players are not coming especially females just because of international tennis activities are not being held in Pakistan. I will soon meet with Asian and International Tennis Federation (ITF) officials and take up the issue. I am quite hopeful the things will be in our favor soon,” he added.

When asked about training camp and selection of team for the Davis Cup tie, Salim replied: ‘The trials will be held for the selection of the team and the training camp will be held soon after the trials. We want to give top priority to Davis Cup, as last time, we missed at final hurdle, and this time, we will try to win the final and enter the Group-I.”

“Pakistan will also participate in Junior Davis Cup tie and U-14 team event at Malaysia during last week of February and first week of March, for which trials are being taken here at Islamabad from January 9. Kh Saeed Hai shall head the selection committee of the PTF,” he added.

He also disclosed that Arif Habib Group had very kindly donated Rs 2.5 million for the uplift of tennis standard in the country. “The PTF has planned a long-term and intensive coaching programme for upcoming juniors, and 50 most promising young tennis players of country will be selected and they will get quality coaching at various centers of country. PTF will also invite a qualified foreign coach to train Pakistani coaches for future development of players,” Salim concluded.