It takes a thrashing for a team to learn its lesson.
After a 5-0 humiliation at the hands of the Philippines, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) is all set to organise the country’s first claycourt championship in June as it looks to prepare players for future Davis Cup ties.
Pakistan went down to the Philippines in their Davis Cup tie in Manila with players ruing lack of practice on claycourts and singling it out as the reason behind the dismal campaign.
‘Players prefer to practice on hardcourts’
However, the PTF Secretary Mumtaz Yousuf said that while there are eight claycourts in Islamabad, the players’ preference is to practice on hardcourts.
“The players can’t really complain about facilities,” Yousuf told The Express Tribune. “We do have claycourts but the players prefer grass or hardcourt — whether they are from Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad. But after the Davis Cup defeat, we’re now trying to make it mandatory for the players to play on clay.
“It’s going to be compulsory for them to participate in at least three claycourt championships to get national ranking points.”
While Pakistan managed to squeeze past Lebanon on claycourts in the first round, the players found the going much tougher against the Philippines. Yousuf added that the result has left a deep cut on the country’s performance but the PTF remained confident that more talent could be unearthed by increasing the number of events in a year and training upcoming players.
“The PTF has done everything it can to give the players maximum facilities given a tight budget. But we’re working on some policy changes that will further enhance the players’ performance and give them exposure. We don’t want to hear them say that ‘we lost due to lack of facilities’ again.”
Aqeel pleased with development
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s top-ranked singles and doubles player Aqeel Khan was pleased with the PTF’s announcement of making the claycourts participation mandatory.
“Players are inclined to practice on surface they’re comfortable on,” said Aqeel. “Claycourt is tricky and there isn’t one in Karachi. They also don’t take part in claycourt championships in Lahore but with the mandatory rule, they’ll get motivated to change their game.”
Aqeel, however, rued working according to the opponents’ terms and conditions.
“The other teams know about our weaknesses so they always choose to stage matches on claycourts. We’re definitely not going to be hosting any of the ties in Pakistan anytime soon so I’m pleased with PTF’s efforts. However, I do feel that it is unfair, since we have to change ourselves on our opponents’ terms and conditions. But this will benefit us in the long term for sure.”
Aqeel also called on the PTF to set up a claycourt in Karachi, calling it the hub of tennis in Sindh and therefore a necessity.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.
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