Weeks of uncertainty over India’s decision to travel to Pakistan to play for the upcoming Davis Cup ties seems to have come to an end with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) confirming that India will travel to Islamabad to play Davis Cup’s Asia/Oceana Group 1 tie to be played on September 14-15.
The relations between India and Pakistan have been tense in recent times and security concerns had already meant that Pakistan has had to play their home ties in Davis Cup at neutral venues in the last few years. Tensions between the two countries along with Indian players seeking reassurances over the security arrangements before traveling had cast a shadow over the tie.
AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee told Reuters:
“It’s not a bilateral series, it’s the World Cup of tennis. So no government clearance was required, we needed an invitation from the Pakistan Tennis Federation for the visa process which we have received. We are applying for the visas soon as it’s a lengthy process.”
The Davis Cup this year has come with many changes in its format and with the world group taking place at one single location where 18 teams divided into six groups with six group winners and two best-placed runners ups going to the quarter-finals.
India qualified for the qualifying round based on being the highest-ranked team in the Asia/Oceana zone but dropped out of the race for Davis Cup finals after losing to Italy 1-3 at home.
The matches were played earlier this year on Grass courts in Kolkata. Following this loss India was moved to Tier 1 of the Asia/Oceana zone along with Uzbekistan, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Lebanon where the winners of these ties will be guaranteed a spot in the 2020 Davis Cup qualifiers whereas the remaining nations in Tier I & II will be given a place within their region based on their rankings.
The official squad has not been announced yet, but a strong contingent led by non-playing captain, Mahesh Bhupati & India’s number one, ranked single’s player Prajnesh Gunneswaran are likely to be heading to Pakistan.
Players like Saketh Mayani, Divij Sharan and Rohan Boppana are most likely to be the some of the names in the squad. Only Sumit Nagal who was part of the practice squad against Italy earlier in the year is out of contention with an injury.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will start as the underdogs having never beaten India in the previous six meetings with the most recent meeting coming in 2006 when the two teams met in Mumbai where India ran out 3-2 winners.
The Pakistani team will have some well-known faces like Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi who reached the 2010 US Open Men’s doubles final with Rohan Bopanna and Aqeel Khan, the 39-year-old veteran of Pakistan tennis.
Security has been beefed up in Islamabad ahead of India’s visit and Pakistan Tennis Federation’s president Salim Saifullah Khan is promising “impressive hospitality” to the visitors, and he also added that they plan to invite Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to watch the games.