ISLAMABAD-Pakistan’s longest serving No 1 tennis player Aqeel Khan says he is looking forward to spearhead Pakistan team along with ace international star Aisam-ul-Haq in the crucial Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan on April 6 and 7.

Talking to The Nation, Aqeel, who is 70 percent fit, said he is feeling better as he is feeling less pain in his troubled shoulder, but he is still using arm-guard to protect the shoulder. “I am playing in a competitive event after almost two-month absence and still not serving more than 40 percent, but the good thing is that I am feeling better and I am charged up to represent my country once again in a very crucial tie against Uzbekistan.

He said he had been taking shoulder therapy for last 50 days or so and doubled up recovery efforts. “Last month, it was impossible for me to make it to the Uzbek tie, but thanks to my doctor and my will power, I have recovered well. I took part in the Punjab tournament, just to gain match fitness, as training is something different and playing matches is entirely different. It is hugely important tie for Pakistan as it will take us to World Group and I want to ensure my contribution,” he added.

Aqeel said the team is very good as Shahzad Khan is very experienced and has already played Davis Cup matches, while Heera Ashiq has earned the right of representing the country by winning matches against M Abid while M Muzammil has just won the national ranking title after defeating Abidin the final. “Overall, we have good team, but it is all about handling the pressure. Off course, Heera and Muzammil don’t have that experience, but with Aisam and me playing, the chances are quite fair, but like Korea, we will be highly underdogs once again as Uzbeks are firm favourites. But playing at home ground on grass courts in front of local crowd will make huge difference and help us do well for our country.”

The No 1 player further said that as soon as the Lahore tournament concludes, he will rush to Islamabad to join the camp. “Aisam is back in Lahore and we would have long training sessions soon. Hopefully, we could repeat the same performance for Pakistan again in the same way we had done on number of occasions and bring joy and happiness on the faces of long-suffering masses, who were deprived of watching international players in action for decades. Thanks to armed forces, government and PTF, slowly but gradually things are moving in right direction. I request masses to come in numbers and support Pakistan team in the Davis Cup,” Aqeel concluded.

Sharing his views, ace tennis star Aisam confirmed that he has arrived home and soon he will join the camp Islamabad. “I am now optimistic about Pakistan’s chances after hearing the news about Aqeel getting fit and would be available for Davis Cup tie. As we all know, how important Aqeel is for Pakistan team as we both have long experience and our pair makes the difference all the time.

“I can’t comment on other players until and unless I watch them in action. Off course, Shahzad has already played with us and he is good when it comes to grass. Obviously, Uzbeks are firm favourite and like so many times in the past, Pakistan is not given bright chances of doing well, but like we had won against so many powerful opponents in the past, we could give them taste of their own medicine. We will fight till the end and try to deliver wonders for country,” Aisam concluded.