WELLINGTON: New Zealand have been awarded their Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group II tie against Pakistan after a hole about “an inch deep and half a foot wide” developed on the court in Myanmar.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said match referee Asitha Attygalla made the decision because of the unplayable surface on the grass courts in the neutral venue of Yangon, which was used because of security concerns in Pakistan.
“It has been a rough court from day one, concerns which we voiced,” New Zealand captain Alistair Hunt told Radio Sport.
“The court only lasted about a match and a half before a reasonably good hole opened up on the baseline, which proved too dangerous to play on and the referee has called it.”
Hunt said earlier that the hole had developed to “about an inch deep and half a foot wide” by the time Sri Lankan referee Attygalla called the tie off and awarded it to New Zealand 4-1.
The court also had issues with uneven bounce, while the players were unsure of their footing, Hunt said.
Pakistan's Aqeel Khan won the first singles rubber against Artem Sitak while Aisam Qureshi was leading Dan King-Turner 3-0 in the third set of the second when the tie was abandoned.
Hunt said the facility at the Pun Hlaing Golf and Country Club had only two grass courts available for the tie, which both teams practised on throughout the week.
“It's a brave ask for two grass courts to support that all week,” Hunt said.
“The court was definitely not up to scratch from day one.
“From Myanmar's point of view they did everything they could and have treated us very well... but I don't think they really understood what was expected of a court for a Davis Cup match and it was a pretty tough ask for them to come up with it at short notice.”
As things stand New Zealand will play the winners of the Thailand-Philippines tie for a place in Group I next year but the furious Pakistani camp is appealing the decision.
“It's a disaster,” Pakistan Tennis Federation President Kaleem Imam told reporters in Pakistan.
“The decision is unfair and it feels like the referee has gifted the tie to New Zealand.
“Our question is that if the first match of the day, which Ageel won, can take place then why did the referee have issues with the court during the second match?
“Declaring the entire tie in New Zealand's favour is just wrong.”
Imam added that the Pakistan players were in shock.
“My players are broken,” he said.
“It is very unfortunate that such a high profile event was marred because of a minor mistake of a certain individual.”
Tennis NZ CEO Steve Johns says the blame for the disastrous tie should be shared between the ITF and PTF.
“The reason I say that is because the way it works is that if we have a tie here we provide the ITF with a whole lot of information about the facility and the ITF then say if they approve it,” Fairfax NZ News quoted Johns as saying.
Pakistan will no doubt want the tie replayed at another venue, but the only other window in the tennis calendar set aside for the Davis Cup is in September, which is when the winner of this tie and the one between Philippines and Thailand will take place.
“It would be extremely difficult to fit it in before September,” said Johns.
“If it was around the other way, we'd be doing what Pakistan are doing. They are desperate to get back up to Group One so they'll try every avenue that's available for them to get the tie replayed.”
“But the rules are the rules and the ITF are very strict at sticking to them.
“Like a lot of people, we were surprised that Myanmar got the tie, but we trusted the ITF that they would make the right decision and they were saying that the facilities were suitable and that the tie could be played there.
“When the team arrived, the reports coming back were that the courts were not good, it is a disappointing position to be in.
“For the tie to end up in this situation where we've come away with a win is a bit of a hollow victory.”