A victorious Pakistan squad returned home yesterday, hoping to carry on the winning momentum as they aim to advance to the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania zone group I this year.
Pakistan beat hosts Lebanon in a hard-fought contest 3-2 in their opening match to go through to the Group II semi-final against Philippines that takes place in April.
Aqeel Khan, who was Pakistan’s standout performer despite not being fully fit, felt the win was a huge breakthrough for his side.
“It was an important win in our bid to get promoted,” Aqeel told The Express Tribune. “The tie against Lebanon was very tough for us from day one.
“They decided against playing indoors after the rain and conditions became very difficult. It was a claycourt and we don’t fancy our chances there.
“But winning after overcoming these factors is a huge morale booster for us ahead of the semi-final.”
The Pakistan number one added that the team was confident of being promoted to group I but stressed on the need to hold the upcoming fixture against Philippines in at home.
“I’m very confident that we will be promoted to group I since the win has really lifted our spirits. But I feel that our federation should take a stand this time and try to arrange the fixture at home. If that’s not possible, it should be arranged at a neutral venue.”
Aqeel lamented that the chances of winning against Philippines on their home turf was a tough ask for the team.
Meanwhile, the tennis player added that he plans on featuring in international tournament to improve his ranking ahead of the London Olympics where he will partner Aisamul Haq Qureshi.
“The international exposure will help me gain confidence for the Olympics.”
Aisam, Aqeel remain the key: Captain
Meanwhile, Pakistan non-playing captain Rasheed Malik, while praising the efforts of the team, said the duo of Aisam and Aqeel remained the main hope for Pakistan.
“Overall it was a team effort,” said Malik. “Both Aqeel and Aisam once again have proved their worth. The duo’s presence is crucial to our chances.”
The former Davis Cup player also echoed Aqeel’s sentiments on the choice of venue for the next tie.
“Our players like to play on grass and they should get it.
“If playing in Pakistan is not possible then we should be allowed to play on surfaces in Dubai or in India.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2012.