KARACHI    -   Pakistan’s longest serving No 1 tennis player Aqeel Khan has said that Pakistan has 40 percent chances of beating archrivals India in the next month’s Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-I tie to be held on the grass courts at Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad.

Talking to The Nation, Aqeel said: “We have to work very hard to ensure Pakistan carve out an upset victory. Realistically, the Indians have very professional players, who are among world’s top 100, while on the other hand, we only have one international star in shape of Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.

“If you want me to comment on rest of our team, which will be part of Pakistan Davis Cup squad, then sorry to say, they are not quality stuff to play high-profile pressure matches of Davis Cup. They are good at national level but they need to have international exposure to even think about standing any chance of playing against much-experienced Indians,” he added.

Aqeel said he has been playing tennis for last almost 25 years. “I started playing tennis at junior level and despite enjoying tremendous success at national level, still No 1 after almost two decades, but it is also reality that I always struggle to show my skills when it comes to deliver at world stage. I had helped Pakistan in Davis Cup, Islamic Solidarity Games and other Asian-level tournaments, but now Aisam and I are at the twilight of our careers and can hardly represent the country for another year or may be two years.

“I have been requesting the PTF for last decade to start work on grassroots level, as playing in Davis Cup for the country is not an easy task. We are in Group I and we need to ensure that we at least stay in this group. The level of tennis has increased tremendously and world players are playing in Grand Slams and ATP tournaments regularly, while we don’t have such resources to compete against top international teams,” he added.

He said his entire 25 years tennis never gave him such exposure, which he had in last two months, which he spent with Aisam as his hitting partner, which helped him learn a lot. “Trust me, it will help me and the country a great deal in the upcoming Davis Cup tie against India. It doesn’t matter the Indians are enjoying far superior rankings than us, it is also reality that they are playing at the highest level. The Indian government and private sector is helping them in every sporting field and their federation is also right behind them.

“On the other hand, Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) in limited resources is also trying its level best, arranging international tournaments for juniors, ladies and seniors, but it is very meager, if we compare it with other tennis-playing nations. Last year, we had beaten top Davis Cup teams and we can do that again, but we need to invest on juniors and provide them international exposure,” he added.

Aqeel said it is his dream to start a tennis academy in Karachi or Islamabad. “I could start an academy abroad easily as there were and still there are many offers from different countries. But I want to start academy here in order to pay back to my homeland, which game me name and fame.

“If Sindh government allocates a piece of land, where I may construct an international standard academy, I can produce champions in few years or otherwise, my second option is Islamabad, as there are few kids, whom if provided with basic opportunities, training and top class coaching, they can resolve Pakistan tennis woes.

“I want to start a tennis academy during my playing days and if IPC Minister Dr Fahmida Mirza helps me in fulfilling my dream, I will provide champions to the country in return,” Aqeel concluded.