ISLAMABAD  -   International Tennis Federation (ITF) Executive Director Luca Santilli has said Pakistan is an important members of ITF, which is keen to promote tennis in Pakistan.

Luca Santilli, the visiting high-level ITF representative, inaugurated the state-of-the-art synthetic courts here at Senator Dilawar Abbas PTF Complex on Friday. The courts were constructed with $50,000 financial assistance provided by the ITF while the PTF also spent around thrice the money, they received from the ITF.

Speaking at the press conference, Luca said: “I am very glad to witness such world-class courts and looking forward to working in close collaboration with the PTF and it will be long-term partnership. Ever since David Haggerty has taken over the ITF president slot, we have doubled the financial assistance to our members.

“The role of media cannot be ruled out. We have arranged a meeting of tennis covering journalists with the ITF board members. It is going to happen very first time that we have invited all the leading sports journalists to meet senior leadership of the ITF.”

The ITF official said that they have set priorities for ITF 2024 vision. “First to integrity, tennis remains clean sports, second investment, ITF increases its revenues so we may help our members and third is development. We are not like FIFA and can only help to a certain level. The Davis Cup format has changed to take all members onboard, as we have to compete with top level tournaments. We want to provide opportunities to play more tennis.”

To a query, Luca said: “We always respect suggestions. We have already been working on these areas of how to generate maximum funds. Pakistan is very important to us, as it is a big nation and we want to take it onboard. Our objective is to help the PTF in involving more players towards this game. We also want to help it in coaching, training and other areas. We have established an online website and PTF is very much onboard. They will recommend names of coaches, whom the ITF will provide online coaching, take tests and the successful candidates will be issued certificates.”

The ITF official said they are going to hold worldwide coaching clinic at Bangkok in October this year. “We have asked the PTF to send maximum coaches for seminar. We will introduce points system and every year, every coach will keep their licence. The online academy will be launched in next few weeks while code of ethics for coaches will be introduced as well. With such steps, we hope coaching community will be able to contribute towards helping the PTF.

“It is my first time in Pakistan and for me, Pakistan is safe and there is absolutely no reason why Pakistan can’t conduct more international events. We need the PTF to contribute towards growth of tennis worldwide. I am sure our president will accept Salim’s invitation to visit Pakistan. We are ready to do more for it and also want to provide more ITF Futures to Pakistan,” Luca concluded.

Sharing his views, Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) President Salim Saifullah Khan, along with patron Senator Syed Dilawar Abbas and other office-bearers, expressed his gratitude to the ITF for sending such a high-profile person to Pakistan. He also thanked sports journalists for their continuous support to the federation and tennis.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan knows well the importance of involving youth in healthy sporting activities. We have spent huge amount on improving basic infrastructure and after a gap of 12 years, Davis Cup was held in Pakistan and after 15 years, the ITF Futures were held in Pakistan.

“The PTF has very limited resources but even then we have been conducting high-profile events regularly. Besides sending our players abroad and spending huge amount on these world-class courts, the federation is now cash-starved. We request the PM to announce hefty grant for the PTF, while we have also sent written request to the ITF to allocate at least $50,000 more for the courts, which has cost us around Rs 20 million.

“I am hopeful that ITF President David Haggerty will lend us a helping hand. I also extended invitation to the ITF chief and officials to come and visit Pakistan. We will accord them warm welcome and they would love the hospitality, weather and atmosphere of Pakistan,” he added.

Salim said Luca has delivered at very young age. “Luca is here for only 36 hours but we are sure he will come again and visit places like Lahore and Karachi to witness the steps, the PTF has taken for promotion of the game. We have legends like Khawaja Iftikhar, all-India champion in tennis.

“The ITF referees have admitted that our courts are capable of hosting the $50,000 events. We have top referees from across the globe and we have good reports of hosting Davis Cup. We are in Group-I for last two years along with China, India, Korea. Now Davis Cup format has changed and let’s see what happens next,” Salim concluded.