ISLAMABAD - The four-member Pakistan female tennis team along with non-playing captain/coach M Khalid left for India to feature in the 12th South Asian Games. Talking to The Nation, Pakistan’s international tennis player Ushna Suhail termed Pakistan chances of finishing on podium quite high. “We have to face tough challenge from hosts India and Sri Lanka. If draws are favourable and we avoid India in the semifinals, we will fight for gold. We are more than capable of beating any given opponent despite the fact we are way behind when it comes to international exposure and playing at the ITF features.”

About not playing singles during the Games, Ushna said: “I don’t know why the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) deprived me of playing in singles only on the basis of unfinished trials, despite the fact that I am the only Pakistani female tennis player having both singles and doubles WTA ranking points. I have never lost against Sara Mansoor in my entire career, anyhow, I am focused and will play my level best to help Pakistan win laurels in the SAG.”

About playing mixed doubles with Aisamul Haq Qureshi, she said: “It’s like dream come true for me to be mixed doubles partner of Aisam. It’s an honour for me and I am sure, with such top class professional at my side, we will fight for the mixed doubles gold and can pose serious challenge to the hosts India’s mixed doubles team. But once again, draws will play key role in deciding our path to the finals.”

Sharing her views, Pakistan No 1 female tennis player Sara Mansoor regretted due to lack of international matches and even very thin amount of local tournaments, the Pakistan women tennis had been declining fast. “The critics, who blames that money spent on women tennis is wastage of national kitty, must understand we only play in Fed Cup, so how could it be possible for us to even stand outside chance against opponents, who had vast experience of playing in WTA and ITF events, even then we will give our more than 100 percent and try to win laurels for the country.” Former Pakistan No 1 Sarah Mehboob said she had played in USA at college level and that was the only international exposure she had. “We played in Fed Cup with no international exposure, but managed to beat tough opponents. We had never played in the South Asian Games, so it will be perfect stage to prove our critics wrong.”

Terming $20 dailies for tennis players as disgrace, she said: “I demand the IPC and PSB to at least give some respectability to dailies. The players play out their hearts and federations take the entire credit, so I request PTF chief Salim Saifullah Khan to announce reasonable dailies for the players on behalf of the federation. We will try to fight for gold, but draws will define destiny.”

Non-playing captain M Khalid confirmed he had taken up the dailies issue with PTF chief Salim Saifullah Khan, who had expressed his complete ignorance about such meager amount and promised to accommodate players upon their return. “The competition is quite stiff, while we have almost zero exposure and this is for the first time, females like males will play in the SAG. But I have best available team and I know they will give best fight and leave the rest.”