Does the word tennis ring any bells? As a Pakistani, most people would agree that it only brings forth names of Aisamul Haq and Aqeel Khan. Yes, they are our national heroes, but don’t you think a decade down the line, when these two hang their boots, we will be ruing the death of another sport in the country when no Pakistani will be representing us at a big stage in tennis.Let’s travel down the memory lane. In 1993, when Jahangir Khan retired from the game of squash, everyone was wondering who will carry the torch. To everyone’s surprise, no one did.
Let’s take another walk. The year was 1994; Pakistan won its fourth hockey World Cup final. What did the future hold? More laurels. What actually happened? We recently failed to even qualify for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics. Well, the list of our failed attempts to carry the momentum build by our legends of sports forwards goes on and on. With seven years gone and no international cricket being played in the country, the future of the most loved game in the country also seems uncertain if not bleak.
However, one spark has been lit in Islamabad recently. It’s the first time in 12 years that international tennis was played within the confines of Pakistan. Cherry on the top, Aisam and Aqeel won their respective matches against Iranian opponents in the Asia-Oceania Group II on the opening day of round one tie at the Pakistan Sports Complex on Friday. There are a lot people who should be thanked for making this possible: the Iranian players, the International Tennis Federation and more importantly the Pakistan Tennis Federation. We should keep in mind that the ripples would spread to other sports as well, most importantly to bring cricket back to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, we should also promote tennis in the country and invest in developing future stars. Otherwise, the hopes of our youngsters will be ‘squash-ed’.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2017.
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