Pakistan defeated Kuwait 3-2 to progress into the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group II second round as Aqeel Khan sealed the win after beating Dawood Sayed Hashim 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association Clay Courts in Colombo on Sunday.
Aqeel won the decider after debutant Abid Ali Akbar lost the opening singles rubber on day three to Kuwait’s best player, Muhammad Ghareeb, 7-6(7/5), 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 2-6.
“I felt a little pressure before going in the match,” Aqeel told The Express Tribune. “Performing in a decisive fifth rubber brings pressure on the team as it is, but I was very comfortable once the match started. Hashim played well but I didn’t feel a lot of fight coming from him.”
He added that it was a good win because they had managed to overcome the biggest challenge of playing in the heat.
Aqeel also praised Abid for putting up a fight against Ghareeb. “Abid took the match to the fifth set, which was incredible. He missed some important points because he lacked experience, but he proved himself against an experienced player like Ghareeb.”
‘Under pressure for choosing venue’
Aqeel and Aisamul Haq Qureshi said that winning the tie was especially important for the two as they were the ones to suggest the venue to the Pakistan Tennis Federation.
Aqeel said the idea behind holding the home tie in Sri Lanka was to win the first round and bring Kuwait out of their comfort zone.
Aisam voiced his compatriot’s sentiments. “We chose this venue,” he said. “We suggested that if we could play in Sri Lanka, we’d be able to win there. I’m happy with the way the team performed. Aqeel took the responsibility of winning the decider, while Abid also surprised me.”
The ATP doubles player, who won the opening singles tie against Naser alObaidly 6-1, 6-0, 6-2, added that getting these three points on board had been the most important thing for them.
After the opening victory, Kuwait had replied through Muhammad Ghareeb against Aqeel on the same day to equalise 1-1.
Aisam and Aqeel then won their doubles rubber against Ghareeb and Hassan alMousa to take a 2-1 lead on day two.
Day three’s results sealed the fate in Pakistan’s favour.
Pakistan will play their next tie against Indonesia, who defeated Iran 3-0 in their first-round fixture, in July.
New Zealand outlasted China after a marathon start to finish 4-1 winners in their Davis Cup Group I Asia-Oceania first-round tie in Auckland on Sunday.
The deciding third singles was taken out by New Zealand’s Rubin Statham over China’s Zhe Li 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in the only straight sets match in the tie.
South Korea beat Thailand 3-2 in the first round, with a victory in the reverse singles on Sunday enough to spoil the hosts’ hopes of a final day comeback.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2015.