ISLAMABAD - The fourth edition of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto International Tennis Championship-2018 started here at Islamabad Tennis Complex, opposite Serena Hotels on Saturday.

While addressing a press conference Senator Taj Haider, who is always instrumental in conducting the event that has been named after her slain leader, informed that the championship carries a total prize money of $15,000. Rs 3.8 million was released by Sindh government, while around Rs 1.2 million is arranged through sponsors as the event will cost around Rs 5 million. The event attracts a whopping 48 international players from 25 countries and main draw is of 32, while 64 players are in action for earning a place in the main round.

Flanked by Senator Farhatullah Babar, PTF President Salim Saifullah Khan and ICT MD Fazle Subhan, Senator Taj Hadier further informed that the final will be held on 23rd of this month and they are expecting PPP Co-Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to either grace the final or a day before.

“It is for the first time that such huge international participation is witnessed in the event and we are highly thankful to PTF, ITF and ATF for posing confidence in our abilities and want to assure them the tournament will be played under tremendous spirit as we want to pay tribute to not only to the first woman prime minister of Asia Benazir Bhutto, but also want to show the world that we never forget our great leader, who enjoyed tremendous respect world over.”

Senator Taj further informed that they will provide best accommodation; meal and one of the best tennis courts of the country will witness some grueling encounters as after playing qualification round, four players will join 28 in the main round. “24 players had direct entry due to their superior rankings and we have granted wild cards to four local Pakistani players, which include one and only longest serving Pakistan number 1 tennis player, Aqeel Khan, Muhamamd Abid, Abid Ali Akbar and Heera Ashiq. We hope that local players shoulder the nations hopes and one of them lift the trophy.”

While sharing his views Senator Babar thanked Fazle Subhan for ensuring top class courts and working tirelessly to ensure such amount of participation. When asked about for the last three editions, despite several promises being made by the PPP top command, but no one bother to turn up for either opening nor at the closing ceremony, Fathatullah said it is true and they are aware of the fact but this time either Asif Zardari or Bilawal will attend the event.

When asked about whether they face any difficulties in arranging funds Taj Haider replied: “No absolutely not, Sindh government despite new rules that only allow provincial governments to spent on provincial sports, Sindh government released the funds. We have spared amount to meet with day-to-day affairs and let me assure that the event would be held in best possible manner to pay tribute to the legendry leader Benazir Bhutto.”

While sharing his views PTF President Salim said conducting back-to-back three international events is a proof that federation is working on modern lines and international bodies had complete faith in the PTF. He Hadier, Babar and Subhan for ensuring the event in highly befitting fashion and assured federations all out help in smooth functioning of things. Subhan also assured his full cooperation and promised to do everything he can to provide best facilities and best prepared clay courts to participants.