ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s longest serving No 1 tennis player Aqeel Khan has said that he wants to end his tennis career by winning the Asian Games medal, which is tough task but not impossible.

Aqeel Monday joined Pakistan tennis team training camp at Pakistan Sports Complex synthetic courts for the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The camp started on August 1 under the command of former Davis Cupper Inam-ul-Haq, while Abid Ali Akbar, Muzammil Murtaza and M Abid have already joined it. Pakistan tennis team will depart for Indonesia on August 16, while the event will start on August 19. Former PTF secretary Khalid Rehmani will accompany the team as manager.

Talking to The Nation, Aqeel said: “The Asian Games medals are always highly important for every player. I am fast reaching at the twilight of my career and I would love to end my career winning a medal at this level. I can’t see I would be able to play next Asian Games , anyhow, I will try my level best and also help my fellow countrymen to progress and end up on podium.”

He said that this time, there is no team event. “I am representing Pakistan since 1998 and it will be 6th Asian Games in running in which I will take part. Unfortunately, due to stiff competition, I had never gone past quarterfinals round and this time too, the competition would be very tough. The likes of Japan, Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Kazakhstan, Chinese Taipei and India are the Asian powerhouses and competing against them is quite a tough task while winning is almost impossible.

“These tennis powerhouses have long training camps, international exposure and infrastructure behind them, while their federations also invest heavily on their players. On the other hand, Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) is also doing great job, considering the fact that their financial position is very weak, but even then, they try to provide up with Davis Cup for men, Fed Cup for women and other events, but government must lend a helping hand to the federation, while private sponsors must have to step forward to help tennis flourish in the country,” he added.

When asked whether the trials were conducted for the selection of Pakistani team, as everybody will play in individuals, Aqeel said: “No, the team was selected directly and I am not aware of any trials. As far as coach is concerned, there is no coach with both male and female teams. Sara Mansoor, Sarah Mehboob and Ushna Suhail will represent Pakistan in ladies event.”

He said they are practising hard and preparing well for the Asian Games . “Every team and every player is working so hard for last year or so, keeping in mind the biggest sporting event in Asia, the event will be very tough for us. Muzammil, Abid and Abid Ali Akbar are good, but it depends on draws. If the lady luck favours us and we have relatively easier draw, then we have chances of progressing and fight for medals.”

When asked about new courts, which are being installed at Senator Dilawar Abbas PTF Complex and would be ready in next few weeks, he said: “Off course, the new courts will make huge difference. We are used to playing on slow surfaces and outdated courts, and when we play on fast and advanced courts, we keep on struggling.

“I feel the federation should also start school coaching initiative and work on fresh blood. Aisam and I have served the country for almost 20 years and I can feel that time is fast slipping out of our hands. Every other country has almost back up of each player, but here in Pakistan, we are struggling to replace Aisam and Aqeel. The youngsters are good, but they have to pay more focus and attention towards tennis, rather than playing for enjoyment,” Aqeel concluded.