India’s Group 1 Davis Cup tie against Pakistan in under three weeks from now, but the International Tennis Federation is yet to announce the venue. Last Monday, the world body declared that the tie, which was to be held in Islamabad on November 29-30, would be shifted out of that country and gave the host association five working days to nominate a new venue.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation, in turn, appealed against the decision, and the ITF is yet to get back to them. “The PTF has appealed. So the ITF will first have to declare the result of the appeal and then decide the venue,” said All India Tennis Association secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee. “The ITF has said that they will get back to them by November 18 at the latest.”
The delay in the naming of the venue has further pushed back the announcement of the Indian team for the tie. At the moment, AITA is awaiting the result of PTF’s appeal, and will select the team accordingly. “We will decide the team based on the country and the surface,” Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali had told The Indian Express last week. “We plan to play this tie with the best team possible.”
India will have a full squad of players – except Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Divij Sharan who are unavailable due to personal reasons – if the tie is held at a neutral venue. However, if the ITF reverses its decision and declares Islamabad as the venue, the likes of Rohan Bopanna, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, along with Prajnesh and Sharan, will be unavailable for the tie owing to security concerns.
Since security concerns prompted the Indian players and AITA to write to the ITF asking for a delay in the tie (back in August) and recently for a neutral venue, the PTF is contemplating asking the international body to let the Indian team decide the venue.
“We may tell the ITF that we’ll not nominate the neutral venue. We’ll request it to ask AITA to choose where its outfit wants to play,” PTF president Salim Saifullah Khan told PTI. “We have a very good chance of beating India on our grass courts and the Indians know this, that is why they are using all tactics to delay and shift the tie.”
Pakistan was unable to host Davis Cup matches for 12 years, but were allowed to compete at home from 2017. Since then, they have played and won three of their four home ties – all in Islamabad – led by 39-year-old pair Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan, who are also strong grass-court players.
AITA has till November 19 to announce the squad, a day after the ITF is expected to announce the venue and 10 days before the tie.