ISLAMABAD - Pakistan ace tennis star Aqeel Khan is all set to start the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-II final proceedings against Thailand’s Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul in the first singles match here at Pakistan Sports Complex grass courts today (Friday).

The historic occasion will begin at 9:30am as Governor Sindh M Zubair will grace the opening ceremony as chief guest, while the first singles will start at 10:00am. Earlier, draws were held under the supervision of International Tennis Federation (ITF) match referee Massimo Morelli and event manager Lt Col (r) Gul Rehman and in the presence of both teams.

In the second singles on the same day, Pakistan’s international tennis star Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi will take on Kittiphong Wachiramanowong. On the second day, doubles match will be played tomorrow (Saturday) between Aisam/Aqeel against Thailand’s twin brothers duo of Sanchai Ratiwatana/Sonchat Ratiwatana.

On Sunday, the third and last day of the tie, the reverse singles matches will be held. Aisam will vie against Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul and Aqeel will play against Kittiphong Wachiramanowong. In case, Pakistan took commanding lead against Thais, or Thailand manage to take winning lead, these both reverse singles matches would not be more than dead rubbers.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has almost finalised the arrangements to conduct the tie in a befitting manner. The entire grass courts and adjacent areas have been covered with make-shift tents while security agencies have taken their places and entire area has literally been cordoned off. Only valid accreditation cards holders and pass holders will be allowed access to the venue, as ITF has allowed around 200 plus spectators due to security concerns. It is expected that the entire area would be packed to capacity well before the scheduled time.

It would be overall ninth tie between the two teams and interestingly, both teams have won four ties each till date, but it will be the most significant one as far as the prestigious Group-I place on offer, odds are heavily favouring the visitors, who have experienced team on disposal.

Pakistan hopes of doing well rely on the shoulders of Asiam and Aqeel. If Aqeel manages to provide Pakistan dream start by winning the opening singles, then pressure will be on Thailand, but in case Aqeel fails to carve out victory, Aisam will feel the heat, while other members of Pakistan team Mu Abid and Shahzad Khan are most likely to warm the bench. The ITF rules allow to change names of the players one-hour prior to the start of the tie, but it is highly unlikely that Pakistan team non-playing captain Davis Cupper M Khalid will take any risks of inducting Abid or Shahzad, as he will play safe and opt to stick with Aisam and Aqeel.

On paper, Pakistan chances of pulling out sensational victory looks highly grim, but with experienced duo of Aisam and Aqeel playing for Pakistan, there is every possibility, both may once again do wonders and give Pakistan another good news. The players of both the teams also had practice session on grass courts on Thursday.

Talking to The Nation, tennis ace Aisam said it would not be easy for them to beat Thai team, which is very strong on papers. “We just have experience at our side and we will count on that to pull out victory. We have only one option that is to go all-out attacking and try to put our opponents under pressure. They are young with having less experience of playing at grass courts, so it depends on Aqeel, how he handles the Thai No 1, who is among 500 in ITF rankings.

“I just play singles in Davis Cup ties and that too realising the fact that we don’t have that bench strength, which we should have. Aqeel and I will both try to give more than 100 percent and I am sure overwhelming crowd support will also help our cause, so I request tennis lovers to come in numbers and support us,” he added.

Sharing his views, Aqeel said he had a very tough nut to crack in the first match, but he was working very hard on his fitness and training. “I will try to give Pakistan perfect start and try to win the encounter against Thai No 1. I will play my best tennis and with the prayers of nation, I will try provide perfect start to my team.”