New Delhi: Dismissing Pakistan’s review appeal, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Tuesday announced Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan as the neutral venue for the upcoming Davis Cup tie between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) had filed an appeal contesting the ITF Davis Cup Committee’s 4 November decision to shift the 29-30 November tie to a neutral venue. PTF had argued that if Indian pilgrims can visit Pakistan without any security threat, why can’t the Indian team play matches in Islamabad, but the Independent Tribunal of the world governing body kept the games at a neutral venue.
“The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) appealed the Davis Cup Committee’s decision to move the tie from Islamabad. The appeal was dismissed by an independent tribunal on Monday 18 November,” 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 statement added.
The matches will be played on indoor courts since extreme cold conditions there won’t allow them to be staged outside. “Playing indoor suits our players. It will work in our favour, not that our players can’t play on grass but they a lot more comfortable on hard courts. The weather conditions are harsh and though we are playing indoors, it still affects the body,” India coach Zeeshan Ali told PTI.
“The quality of tennis is better playing indoors because factors like sun and wind do not affect the matches.” The tie was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in September but was pushed to 29-30 November after India expressed concerns about the safety of their players due to diplomatic tensions between the two nations following the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
India have named a full-strength squad for the tie as all the top players, who had refused to travel to Islamabad, agreed to play at a neutral venue. The side will be led by top singles players Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan while veteran Leander Paes and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan are likely to pair up for the doubles.
Top doubles player Rohan Bopanna pulled out of the tie on Monday after suffering a shoulder injury. Zeeshan said Bopanna’s pulling out has proved that selecting three doubles specialist was a wise decision. “It was a right call to have specialists as reserves. Bopanna is out and we have Jeevan to come in for him. We can’t name the playing five now but Jeevan is next person to get into playing squad. We will definitely miss Rohan. We have singles players who can play doubles as well, like Ramkumar but having a doubles specialist means that singles players won’t have to worry that they maybe required to play doubles.”
“It is good to have left-right combination (Jeevan and Leander Paes). If you look at the teams on paper, India is a stronger side and won’t have any problem in tackling Pakistan but anything can happen in Davis Cup. You can not take any match for granted,” he said, cautioning that taking Pakistan lightly is not a good idea despite the absence of higher-ranked players in the opposition ranks.
“Pressure is different on Davis Cup because you are not playing for yourself but for your country. So we picked our best players.” Pakistan’s best player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi has threatened to pull out of the tie in protest against shifting of the tie, which may further weaken the Pakistan team. “That’s not our concern. Our job is to win the tie,” added Zeeshan.