KARACHI: Sibling rivalries generally fade away well before adolescence, but in the case of teenage brothers Muzammil and Mudassir Murtaza, the rivalry has only just begun.
The Murtaza brothers are both vying for a place in Pakistan's Davis Cup squad that will take on Iran next month in Islamabad as part of their Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group II tie.
With the experienced Aisamul Haq and Aqeel Khan virtual locks to grab two of the four spots on the team, the 17-year-old Muzammil and 19-year-old Mudassir will have to fight it out with fellow hopefuls Yasir Khan, Muhammad Abid, Heera Ashiq, Abid Ali Akbar and Ahmed Chodhari for the remaining two places.
So intense is the competition for places that the younger Muzammil says he shows no mercy to his elder brother Mudassir despite sharing a bond with him.
“Davis Cup is of course the most important tournament for us in tennis. Representing your country on an international stage is unlike any other feeling,” the highly-rated Muzammil, who has wins over Davis Cuppers Yasir Khan and Muhammad Abid Mushtaq, told The Express Tribune.
“Both of us are in the running for the two spots in the Davis Cup team and even though I wish we both make the cut, at the end of the day it is the sport that matters. The two of us don’t even talk to each other when we are on the opposite sides of the court.”
The brothers, who employ the rarely used two-handed forehand, clashed in the ongoing trials on Sunday when Muzammil drew first blood. Although as expected, he was unapologetic about it since it was all in the game.
“We trash talk before the match to intimidate each other," he revealed. "It is a sign of healthy competition. We are also each other’s best support system; I tell him about his flaws and he points out mine. It is all about honesty, on and off the court."
While for now, Muzammil's aim is to earn a place alongside Aqeel on the roster, the youngster says once the Davis Cup gets out the way he will again try and climb his Everest — which is to defeat the almost invincible Aqeel.
“Aqeel has taught us a lot but that doesn't reduce my desire to defeat him,” said Muzammil, who has last month's Asian Tennis Tour (ATT) tournament defeat at the hands of his idol still fresh on his mind. “He is the best player we have, so I need to overcome him in a match in order to prove that I have improved.”
Aqeel, meanwhile, rates the Jahaniyan-based prodigy very highly but feels the youngster could benefit with a more dedicated training regime as well as playing in the International Tennis Federation Futures events.
The advice hasn't fallen on deaf ears as Muzammil plans on playing the Dubai juniors ITF tournament at the conclusion of the first phase of the ongoing Davis Cup trials. He feels he will return a better player and more prepared for the second phase following his excursions in the Middle East.
“I have to win one more match in the first round of the Davis Cup trials which of course won't be easy as I prefer the slower clay courts and the trials are taking place on outdoor hard courts. Hence, I'll be going to Dubai to try and refine my technique and learn from other players so that I can represent Pakistan which is my ultimate dream,” concluded Muzammil.
With both Aisam and Aqeel well into the twilight of their careers, Pakistan will soon need a new breed of players to carry the torch. If that proverbial torch needs safe hands, mind you, Murtaza brothers use both of theirs.
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