The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Tuesday confirmed that the Pakistan versus India Group 1 Davis Cup tie will now take place in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. The world body had on November 4 announced that the tie would be shifted to a neutral venue instead of being played in Islamabad. The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) subsequently appealed against the decision, but now, merely 10 days before the tie, the ITF has announced the final venue.
“The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) appealed the Davis Cup Committee decision to move the tie from Islamabad. The appeal was dismissed by an independent tribunal on Monday 18 November,” the ITF said in a statement. “Further to the decision of the PTF not to nominate a neutral venue, in accordance with Davis Cup regulations, the Davis Cup Committee has voted in favour of the tie being hosted by the ITF on neutral ground at the National Tennis Centre in Nur-Sultan (previously Astana), Kazakhstan on 29-30 November.”
The tie being moved to a neutral venue accentuates the gulf in class between the two teams.
India’s star players had previously made it clear that they will be unavailable for the tie should it be held in Pakistan. For the meeting in Kazakhstan though, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) has named a strong seven-man team that will be travelling. Spearheading the Indian team will be the country’s second highest ranked singles player Sumit Nagal (131), along with Ramkumar Ramanathan (175), Sasikumar Mukund (261), Saketh Myneni (390) and first-time call-up Sidharth Rawat (500). The team will also include doubles specialists Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (110) and 18-time Grand Slam champion Leander Paes (105). On Monday, India’s highest ranked doubles player Rohan Bopanna (38) was ruled out due to a shoulder injury.
The Pakistan team in turn, is expected to miss the services of veterans Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan, who made clear their stand that they will boycott the tie should it take place outside Pakistan. While Qureshi, who is ranked 52 in doubles and is the only player from Pakistan placed within the first 1300 ATP ranks, Khan is the most capped Davis Cup player from Pakistan with 51 ties. Apart from the two, Pakistan has named five different players for the four ties they have played at home since the ITF lifted the 12-year ban on Davis Cup ties being held on Pakistani soil in 2017. M Abid Ali Khan Akbar, Muhammad Abid, Shahzad Khan, Muzammil Murtaza and Heera Ashiq have been nominated for their country since 2017, all of whom have played only a handful of ITF Future events this year.
The tie at the National Tennis Centre in Nur-Sultan is expected to be played on an indoor hard court, contrary to the Pakistanis desire to play on grass courts.
The occasion will also mark the seventh time the two teams will compete against each other in Davis Cup. India last hosted the tie in Mumbai in 2006, but the last time an Indian Davis Cup team travelled to Pakistan was for the 1964 tie in Lahore. The Indians were drawn to travel to play an away tie across the border in 1973, but just as it is now, that tie too was shifted to a neutral venue, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia being the host city on that occasion.