Pakistani tennis veteran Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has decided to skip the upcoming Davis Cup tie against India if the tie does not happen in Pakistan. The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) had appealed against the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) decision to shift the Group 1 Zonal tie to a neutral venue. Now that the tie is likely to take place in Kazakhstan, the 39-year-old may not feature for his country.
“For me that’s an unfair and biased decision by the ITF,” Qureshi told The Indian Express. “I don’t see any reason why a five-member Indian team cannot come to Pakistan right now. I don’t understand why they have security concerns and see it as a threat to the tennis team when there are so many Indians coming in day in and day out at the Kartarpur Corridor for religious activities. We don’t want politics to come in the way of sports like it has been happening with cricket. That’s the only reason I’m taking this stand.”
Qureshi goes further to express his disappointment in his former doubles partner Rohan Bopanna, with whom he had promoted the ‘Stop war start tennis’ campaign. Both players are ‘Champions of Peace,’ which is created by Monaco-based organisation Peace and Sport.
“As an ambassador for peace, I’d have expected him to promote peace, and at least encourage his federation and his government to push for this tie to be played in Pakistan,” Qureshi says of Bopanna, with whom he made the 2010 US Open doubles final.
“I spoke to Rohan at the Paris Masters in October and he said he’d be missing because of a knee injury. But now I see that he became available when the tie was shifted to a neutral venue. It’s a bit sad for me to see that. He has been to Pakistan before and played here as well. He came for my wedding in 2010, there used to be Indo-Pak friendly ties before that as well, he was here for that. It’s just sad, and that’s why I’m heartbroken.”
As it turned out, on Monday, Bopanna, who is India’s highest ranked doubles player (38) pulled out of the tie due to a shoulder injury.
The Pakistani player, who is ranked 52 in doubles and is the only player from his country to be ranked within the top 1300 ATP ranks (in both singles and doubles), has previously used tennis to promote the idea of sports triumphing over politics. At the Wimbledon Championships and US Open in 2002, he teamed up with Israeli player Amir Hadad despite a backlash from his countrymen.
“When I played with an Israeli, half of my country was against me. But I felt I was making the right decision as a sportsman, putting sports first and not politics or religion. The same thing happened when I played with Rohan as well,” he says.
Along with Qureshi, Pakistan’s most capped Davis Cup player Aqeel Khan (51 ties) is also expected to skip the tie in protest of the ITF decision. And without the top two players, who continue playing singles and doubles in Davis Cup, Pakistan will be forced to field a highly depleted squad.