ISLAMABAD-Pakistan tennis ace Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, while expressing his feelings to represent the country at home soil after a long time, has hoped that the hosts will play the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-II tie against Iran well and try to win it.

In an interview with The Nation, Aisam said: “It is a historic occasion for me as I have never played at home soil despite representing the country for almost 17 years. I am excited, pumped up and emotional and want maximum crowd to turn up and watch us playing the tie. I wanted maximum crowd at the venue but due to International Tennis Federation (ITF) allocation of around 250 to 300 persons only due to security purposes, now it’s not possible to have mega crowd, but I am sure after conducting two or three home Davis Cup ties, the ITF will allow Pakistan to have more crowd and extra seating capacity. I request the countrymen to switch on their televisions as national broadcaster is telecasting matches live and show support to national team.”

Speaking about the team combination, Aisam said they had the best available team for the tie. “I know Iran has also brought their best team and it will be a great contest on offer. I am sure Iranians will love our hospitality and enjoy their stay in Pakistan and will inform others about the positives about this beautiful country. After winning the event in Auckland, I am enjoying very good 2017. Keeping in mind Davis Cup tie, I have started preparing myself and brought my body in shape from October last year.”

When asked whether he was prepared to play in the singles as well, Aisam replied: “Let’s see, I am training for the singles matches as well, but it is up to captain and demand of the situation, as if the country requires my services and Pakistan team will be in trouble, I will definitely play the singles. I along with Aqeel have never lost a doubles match in home tie since 1998, and hopefully this time too, we will be able to intact that record and bring more laurels for the country. But both of us are 36 now and can’t play for the three days in running and as our body needs rest. I think Abid Ali Akbar and M Abid are good enough to produce excellent results in singles,” Aisam concluded.

Sharing his views, Pakistan’s longest serving No 1 player Aqeel Khan termed it like dream come true. “I have played for around two decades for Pakistan and now at the twilight of my career, I want to sign off on a high. Now hardly two or three years tennis has left in me as age is fast catching me, but watching the great Federer winning the Australian Open at 35 clearly indicates that age means nothing if you are super fit and you can drag on for another two or three years.”

He said he wanted to give entire credit of bringing the Davis Cup tie back to Pakistan to current PTF officials while the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is also providing excellent facilities to the players and the federation. The DG has vacated his room just to accommodate the players, which is amazing. Although the hard courts are the second best option for us, as we are specialists on grass but the hard courts also suit us, and we never lost on these surfaces.

“Iran has a balanced team and they are determined to record upset victory against us, but in current circumstances, we have best team available after trials in shape of Abid Ali Akbar and M Abid. I am sure the crowd presence will be in extra favour of Pakistan. I request all to pray for Pakistan success and hopefully, after successful conduct of this tie, more and more Davis Cup home ties will be allocated to Pakistan and we will try our best to excel,” Aqeel concluded.

Sharing his views, PTF president Salim Saifullah thanked the government, IPC minister, PSB DG, ITF and the Tennis Federation of Iran (TFI) for posing confidence in Pakistan’s abilities and promised to give maximum facilities to the visiting players and international officials. “It is like dream come true for me and my team. I request media to portray positive and sports-loving image of the country, which is the need of the hour. I invite sports journalists to come in numbers and work for the national cause,” he concluded.