ISLAMABAD -  Aqeel Khan and Aisam-ul-Haq gave Pakistan a perfect 2-0 start against Iran in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-II tie, which started here at the Pakistan Sports Complex hard courts on Friday.

It was a historic occasion to see Davis Cup returning to Pakistan after 12 years long wait and it was perfect day for the country, as despite ITF’s crowd restrictions, the masses turned up in numbers to witness their favourite sons in action. Islamabad Mayor Sh Ansar Aziz was supposed to grace the occasion as chief guest, but he couldn’t come, so IPC minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada acted as chief guest. Former senator Waseem Sajjad, PTF patron senator Dilawar Abbas, president Salim Saifullah Khan and Aisam’s entire family was also present on the occasion.

Aqeel was up against Iran number two Shahin Kaldan with Kuwait’s Ali as chair umpire. Aqeel comfortably held his serve to lead 1-0 and immediately broke Shahin’s serve in the second game to make it 2-0, before it was 3-0. But after playing so well and enjoying overwhelming crowd support, Aqeel just lost the momentum and started committing too many mistakes which provided Shahin chance to level the score at 3-3.

The set continued with both the players held onto their respective serves and soon it was 6-6. It was then decided on tiebreak where Aqeel took mini break first, having 4-1 lead, and then he broke Shahin’s serves to take the first set 7-6 (1) in 55 minutes. Even though crowd was right behind the local lad, yet Shahin was also enjoying Iranian embassy staff support, who turned up in quite numbers, while Iranian ambassador to Pakistan was also amongst the spectators. The Iranian bench was also bucking Shahin to carve out victory against all the odds.

Aqeel started the second set on awesome note and broke down Shahin’s very first serve and then held onto his serve to make it 2-0. Shahin gradually gathered pace and was dictating his terms when Aqeel changed his gears and produced magical shots to win the second set 6-4 in 35 minutes.

After playing well in the first two sets, Shahin just ran out of gas and was looking increasingly tired while Aqeel was more energetic and passionate to win the crucial match. He broke the second game and then 5th game of Shahin and thrice came from 0-40 down to take the game at 5-2. He simply hit three aces to finish off Shahin, winning the third set in 32 minutes. It was Nosheen, mother of Aisam, who rushed to congratulate Aqeel and it was wonderful scene to watch when mother of the tennis star with her family coming all the way from Lahore to support Pakistan team.

Aisam played the second and last singles against Iranian number 2 Anosha Shahgholi. Pakistan team captain Rashid Malik had choice of using Abid Ali Akbar in the singles, but Aisam presented himself for the crunch match and his decision paid off great dividend for the country as he simply outclassed Anosha.

Aisam broke 3rd, 5th and 7th games of Anosha to take the first set 6-1 in just 25 minutes. It was a delight to watch Aisam in such a dominating mood, as he was in irresistible form and taught tennis lesson to the Iranian lad, who had no answers to Aisam’s power and accuracy. Anosha did play a bit well in the second set, as Aisam put paddle off and allowed him room to show his game, but after initial relaxation, Aisam broke down 5th and 7th games and finished off second set with 4 connective aces, winning it 6-2 in 33 minutes.

Pakistan tennis ace broke Anosha’s first game in the third set, then 3rd game and again 5th game and was leading 40-0 in the 7th game, but he got a bit relaxed, which gave Anosha a chance to grab yet another game. But it was all he could get from the set and the match, as Aisam hit three aces before winning the 8th game and set 6-2 in 27 minutes to give Pakistan a huge advantage in the tie.

It is being expected that Rashid Malik will enter the doubles with his most successful pair of Asiam/Aqeel, who has never lost a home tie since 1998.

Pakistani pair will take on Iranian pair, which will be nominated by Iran captain Saeed prior to start of the match today (Saturday) at 11am.