ISLAMABAD: A show of competitive tennis is expected to be staged at the Pakistan Sports Complex from Friday when hosts Pakistan take on Uzbekistan in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I tie.
The Uzbeks, who look a a far better outfit than Pakistan on paper, boast the services of former world number 33 Denis Istomin. However, the non-playing Pakistan captain Mohammad Khalid is looking forward to witness ‘exciting matches’.
Khalid will mentor the experienced likes of ace player Aisam-ul-Haq, seasoned campaigner Aqeel Khan, Shahzad Khan and of two youngsters Hira Ashiq and Muzammil Murtaza.
“Our opponents are better in ranking, but we will work hard and show full energy in all matches,” Aisam said.
“We won the last tie here [against South Korea] and again will make every effort to seize this opportunity of home tie.” added the 38-year-old.
Pakistan have been on song in their previous Davis Cup ties, beating Iran and Thailand in their Group II matches.
Beating Uzbekistan can take Pakistan to the World Group Playoff, a feat the national side has achieved only twice (1985 and 2005). However, Pakistan’s record against the visitors suggests any such achievement will be considered a huge upset. The hosts were beaten comprehensively by Uzbekistan in 1997 and 1999, the only two times the sides clashed.
Young Ashiq will be making his Davis Cup debut in the upcoming tie. The rookie is excited to feature for Pakistan along with the seasoned Aisam and Aqeel.
“It [the tie] will be a good opportunity for me to play with and learn from the seniors,” Ashiq told Dawn.
“I am very lucky.”
Muzammil, who made his debut against south Korea earlier this year also expressed his eagerness to get going in at the big stage.
“It will be like dream come true if I get a chance to play,” he said.
Meanwhile, seasoned campaigner Aqeel said that Pakistan has the edge of home courts and crowds. He said that back in 1999, Pakistan faced Uzbekistan in Davis Cup to face 5-0 defeat.
“No doubt, they [Uzbek] are best, but I along Aisam will make all out efforts to take home grass courts advantage,” he said.
“I just participated in national tournament in Lahore, where I performed very well and won the championship. Though, I still have little bit issue of wrist, but it can overcome,” added Aqeel.
Earlier, while speaking at press conference, non-playing Uzbek captain Peter Lebed and team member Denis foresaw a tough outing against Pakistan.
Lebed said Pakistan will be difficult opponents.
The visitors also include Sanjar Fayziev (world no 370), Jurabek Karimov (579), Khumoyun Sultanov (905) and Farrukh Dastov (959).
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2018