ISLAMABAD - The third $15,000 Benazir Bhutto International Tennis Championship 2017 will roll into action from December 17 here at Islamabad Tennis Complex, with more than 24 international players along with 200 Pakistani players will be seen in action in it.

Senator Taj Haider, along with Senator Farhatullah Babar and Islamabad Tennis Complex MD and former Davis Cup coach Fazal-e-Subhan, announced this during a press conference here at ITC on Tuesday. Taj said: “We started the tournament in 2015 in the name of our great leader Benazir, who laid down her life in fight against terrorism. It was our national and moral duty to pay tribute to her dynasty in the best possible manner. When I met with Fazal-e-Subhan, he advised me to start a tennis championship in her name, the idea was so attracting that I immediately started working on it. We have tried our level best to attract international stars in the first edition, but unfortunately, due to terrorism menace, the ITF didn’t allow international players entry.

“Last year, we managed to attract a good number of top national and international players, while we also spent around Rs 3 million on renovation of Islamabad Tennis Complex. It was a huge task, but Subhan and members made the task easy in the end and we managed to include a number of things, which would benefit the players and members in the years to come. Due to expansion work on road, our two courts were badly damaged. I met with minister Talal Chaudhry, who, very kindly, promised to issue special grant very soon, so that we could construct the courts again. I request Talal Chaudhry to release the grant as early as possible, so that the members can enjoy tennis and feel like home,” he added.

He said they have received more than 200 entries and 24 international players have already arrived. “We have generated Rs 5 million funds for the event, as we have to provide TA/DA, accommodation and dailies to local players. The prize money is $15,000, while other expenditures required to conduct the event in highly professional manner. I am grateful to Sindh government for releasing Rs 3.5 million grant in only two days time, while Engro Sindh also gave us Rs 0.8 million, while Subhan and his team made tireless efforts to prepare the ITC courts to conduct the event smoothly.

“I am also thankful to Senator Farhatullah Babar for sparing time from his busy schedule and attended the press conference. The 24 international players belong to 12 different countries while 32 players would be in main draw. Like last year, we have prepared special trophies for both men and ladies players, while international referees will monitor the matches. It will be the very first tournament of this structure.

“PPP co-chairman Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari will be the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony on December 18, while Asifa Bhutto Zardari will grace the finals as chief guest on December 24 and distribute prizes among the players,” he added. He further announced to start coaching camps for juniors in the name of Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad, like they conducted the similar activity in Karachi, while the deserving players would also be provided with tennis gears.

Sharing his views Senator Farhatullah Babar lauded the efforts of Senator Taj Hadier and Fazal-e-Subhan and said Benazir was not only the leader of Pakistan, but was a world figure. “Conducting tennis championship in her name would have a huge impact, as sports bring different nations close and bind them in friendship and relations are strengthened. I want to thank all those who worked so hard to make the previous two events huge successes and I am sure this time too, it will be the biggest event ever held in Pakistan.

“Benazir was keen supporter of sports and she always spared time to attend and encourage athletes. It is a great initiative and it will bring international stars and Pakistani players closer to each other, while it will also send a highly positive message through the players to international community that Pakistan is a peaceful and sports-loving country,” he added.

Subhan thanked Taj Haider and Farhatullah Babar saying Senator Taj has played significant role in up-gradation of Islamabad Tennis Complex. “Without his active help and unconditional support, we would have never been able to turn this complex into the very best in the country. The ITC offers world class facilities and I can assure all that it will be highly wonderful event and people and players will remember it for years to come.”