ISLAMABAD: Brilliant performances from Pakistan’s prolific tennis pair of Aisam-ul-Haq and Aqeel Khan proved too hot for the visiting South Koreans who succumbed to a 4-0 defeat in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group I tie here at the Pakistan Sports Complex on Saturday.
Continuing from where they had left on Friday when they had gained a 2-0 lead in the tie, both Aisam and Aqeel displayed their prowess at the game when they won the doubles contest against the Korean duo of Soon Woo Kwon and Yongkyu Lim 7-6 (8), 6-4 in one hour and 44 minutes.
In the fourth clash, which was a dead rubber, Abid Ali Akbar outclassed his Korean opponent (7-6(2), 7-6(5) to seal a 4-0 victory for Pakistan. The last match of the series was cancelled with the mutual understanding of both teams.
With this victory, Pakistan moved into the next round of Group I and will host Uzbekistan in April this year in Islamabad.
Earlier, in doubles both sides exhibited splendid game particularly in the first set. At one stage, the score was 5-4 but the Korean duo came back superbly to make it 5-5.
Players from both teams unleashed a powerful range of shots including forehand, backhand and some excellent drop and slice shots.
It was at this juncture that Pakistan got another point but Aqeel stumbled a bit to provide a chance to his opponent to make it 6-6. The set was then decided on tiebreak.
In the next set, however, the Pakistani pair appeared much more confident and played with better understanding and coordination. However, the Koreans were not ready to give up and once again the two sides were level at 4-4 when Aisam and Aqeel managed to break the serve of their opponents to gain a crucial 5-4 lead.
In the next game, Aisam held his serve for the set, for the game and for the tie, finishing 6-4 to win the match for Pakistan.
Emotional scenes were witnessed after the victory as the sizeable crowd celebrated the victory. As Pakistan took an unassailable lead of 3-0, non-playing captain Hameed-ul-Haq, Aisam and Aqeel took a break to meet the the spectators.
Later, speaking to media, Hameed said: “Korea is considered as a tennis power in Asia and beating them 4-0 is no mean achievement. We are very happy.”
He also appreciated the efforts of PTF president Salim Saifullah Khan for his efforts for the revival of Davis Cup ties in Pakistan.
The 37-year-old Aisam said that it’s a historical win for Pakistan.
“On paper we were, perhaps, the weaker team but we managed to win this tie with lot of hardwork and good strokeplay,” he said, adding that it is high time for the government to provide proper support and patronage to the game of tennis. “Only focusing on cricket is not justified, the state should also support tennis,” he emphasised. “Both Aqeel and I have been playing for the country for the last 20 years but to secure the future of the players and the game of tennis, government support is essential.
“We will do our best to defeat Uzbekistan in the tie in April this year,” vowed Aisam.
Aqeel, too, spoke on the occassion and disclosed that he was not fully fit to play the doubles but wanted his country to win so he carried on
“Today is a historical day for us,” said Aqeel. “I was suffering from sever pain in my elbow which had also disrupted my sleep on Friday night. But on the insistence of team management and Aisam, I decided to play the doubles and we managed to defeat the strong Korean pair.
Meanwhile, Salim Saifullah said, “After this victory, we are number four in Asia, which is a big achievement.”
A good number of local tennis fans witnessed the two-day events and kept supporting the Pakistani players which was a great sight indeed.
The Korean Embassy also deserves lot of appreciation since the Korean Ambassador Kwak Sungkyu and a group of embassy staff and Korean community witnessed the matches and kept supporting their team throughout.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2018