Lahore-Pakistan Davis Cup team’s non-playing captain Mushaf Zia has urged the government to recognise the great services of tennis star Aisam-ul-Haq and No 1 player Aqeel Khan for the country and also honour the Davis Cup team for winning the tie against Slovenia.

In an interview with The Nation here on Sunday, Mushaf said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan should spare some time from his busy schedule to invite Pakistan Davis Cup team to acknowledge their convincing Davis Cup victory against European powerhouse, Slovenia, as it will not only motivate them but also boost their morale to give out their best against Japan. Pakistan’s longest serving No 1 Aqeel Khan should be rewarded with a civil award for his matchless services for the country.”

Terming Pakistan’s Davis Cup team win against Slovenia as remarkable; the coach said the players need to make extraordinary preparations to stand any chance against Japan in Davis Cup tie. “We played very close tie against Slovenia, which was much better side than us. It was a see-saw battle as there were many ups and downs especially in singles matches, where Aisam and Aqeel were down but both made strong comebacks to earn crucial points and first leveled the score and then won their respective matches to give Pakistan 2-0 edge. In the doubles, we played better tennis to win the rubber as well as the tie.

“Our next tie is against Japan team, which is one of the toughest sides. In our era, we had played very close ties against Japan. Our specialty is grass-court and if we play at this surface, we will have 50-50 chance of winning the tie. The team, which will earn crucial points on the given day, will win the tie.

“Now in these difficult times due to Coronavirus pandemic, our players should continue their exercises and trainings at home and keep them fit and in shape. They must continue their workout at home, so that they may be ready to exhibit their prowess in the upcoming events,” he added.

Mushaf, himself a leading former Davis Cupper, recalled that before the tie, the consecutive rains disturbed the tie time and again. “When the rains stopped, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) and its entire staff managed to conduct the tie successfully at grass courts. The credit goes to everyone, who put their sincere efforts in making the tie a success. First of all, it’s government and armed forces, who played their vital role in reviving international sports activities in Pakistan and then PTF, management and players succeeded in winning laurels for the country.

“The PTF, under the dynamic leadership of its president Senator Salim Saifullah Khan, has been taking drastic steps to promote and flourish the game in the country. They have not only been conducting the ITF junior events one after another but also bringing international teams to Pakistan for Davis Cup ties, which is helping the country making progress in their Group,” he added.

About the future of Pakistan tennis, he said: “Aisam and Aqeel are still champions of the game and no youngsters could even think about replacing them. Upcoming talent Muzammil Murtaza is creating waves at national level but he needs a lot of hard work to improve his game to emerge as the replacement of both the tennis greats.”

He also urged the government and corporate sector to come forward to support the sports as money matters a lot as far as the promotion of the games is concerned. “Our players have talent and ability to excel but what they lack is international exposure as the more they take part in the events abroad, the better results they will produce.”

Replying to a query regarding the difference between the tennis of his era and the current one, the coach said: “The standard of tennis in our era was very good as we used to beat top tennis playing nations. While qualifying for the World Group, we gave tough times to Japan before going down against them. In our era, we had very good backups of passionate players as 7 to 8 players used to available always to represent the country in international events. The competition level was also very tough at that time.

“Now the youngsters in the current era aren’t that hardworking and they waste most of their times on social media and other trivial activities instead of working very hard on their fitness and improving their skills and techniques. Their passion is not that much which the players used to have in our eras,” Mushaf concluded.