KARACHI: “We went for the kill,” Pakistan tennis ace Aisamul Haq Qureshi told The Express Tribune as he and Aqeel Khan won the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group II first round tie 3-0 against Iran at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad on Saturday.
It was a momentous win for Pakistan as the players were playing a Davis Cup tie in their country for the first time in 12 years and more importantly, the win gives them a chance to play at home against other nations in the next rounds that will take place in April.
Being the most seasoned players for Pakistan, Aisam and Aqeel saw off their opponents — Alborz Akhavan and Anoosha Shahgholi — comfortably, winning by a scoreline of 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
The duo was not expected to play the doubles match initially but non-playing captain, Rashid Malik, chose to field them in the third rubber which turned out to be the decider in the best-of-five tie.
“We were 2-0 up and Malik told us that he would want his best two players to finish the job. The weather forecast was also not looking too good for Sunday or Monday; there was a chance of rain. Both me and Aqeel were up for it, we were comfortable and fit so we went ahead. Playing with Aqeel is always great and we both knew that we have to win the match,” said Aisam.
Aisam and Aqeel helped Pakistan get a 2-0 lead on the first day, with Aqeel defeating Shahin Khaledan 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-2 and Aisam bringing down Shahgholi 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the second singles rubber.
The 2010 US Open finalist said that playing the singles rubber was tougher than doubles, however, he was glad that both he and Aqeel managed to keep their unbeaten record at home in a decade intact — they have a remarkable record of 21 win and only six defeats as the doubles team in Davis Cup matches for Pakistan.
“We haven’t lost a doubles tie at home since 1998; I don’t know if it is a record or not,” said Aisam. “There was definitely more pressure on day one because I’m not used to playing singles anymore, but this win matters a lot, especially at home.”
Similarly, Aqeel said that winning the doubles match to confirm Pakistan’s win was a big moment and the two made sure that they dominate against Shahgholi and Akhavand.
“It was all hard work; Aisam is a world class player and I just made sure that I train in advance for the tie,” said Aqeel. “Doubles is more about the understanding between the two players and it is reassuring that we’re a good team together.
"In 12 years this was the first time I felt good, when it wasn’t just my teammates clapping on a good point during the match, there were more people to cheer for us. The home advantage really makes a big difference. We also played well I feel, we didn’t make any mistakes.”
Asiam, meanwhile, was quick to praise their opponents as well. “They [Iran] played their heart out,” he said. “They’re a good team in fact. Aqeel played with them on clay courts in the past and had a tough time. During the tie the surface didn’t suit them at all. Hard courts are not their strength.”
On the last day of the tie, Abid Ali Akbar and Muhammad Abid will play the reverse singles match.
Meanwhile, both Asiam and Aqeel have set their eyes on the second round in April. They will face the winner of the tie between Vietnam and Hong Kong.
“I’ll be flying out to Sofia and then to Rotterdam but it is the next Davis Cup round that we’ll be playing at home again. There was support; although the public was not allowed, it was good that PTV was showing the match and the fans could see it. Hopefully in the next tie people will be allowed to come to see us at the venue,” said Aisam.
Both players also hailed the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) for holding the tie in the best manner.