I love the title!
Chile's golden boys bid for further success
When Aqeel Khan’s name appeared first in the ballot, during the draw, he and the rest of his team mates shared a spontaneous laugh, as if fate itself was making a joke on them. Khan, Pakistan’s No. 2 player and ranked 988 in the world, will play the first match of the Chile v Pakistan tie against Fernando Gonzalez, Chile’s No. 1 player and ranked 18 in the world. That’s just 970 spots away!
The draw ceremony left the World Group Playoff of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie between Chile and Pakistan as:
Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) v Aqeel Khan (PAK)
Nicolas Massu (CHI) v Aisam Qureshi (PAK)
Fernando Gonzalez/Nicolas Massu (CHI) v Aqeel Khan/Aisam Qureshi (PAK)
Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) v Aisam Qureshi (PAK)
Nicolas Massu (CHI) v Aqeel Khan (PAK)
The favourites are Chile, based on many factors: Massu and Gonzalez are a lot more experienced and better ranked than Qureshi or Khan, who mainly play on the Futures tour, while the local stars are the current Olympic medallists (Massu has gold in singles and doubles, while Gonzalez has gold in doubles and bronze in singles). To make it worse for the visitors, the tie will be played on the Court Central at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile, on a very slow red clay court –a surface on which the Pakistan players have very little experience, if any.
Nevertheless, Chile is not taking it easy.
“They already beat Thailand, with a player like Paradorn Srichaphan, so we cannot take this for granted,” said Hans Gildemeister, Chile’s captain.
“If they are here, in this round, that must mean something. We will do our best against them, as if they were the best team in the world.”
Tennis in Pakistan has been growing in popularity, but still does not attract big crowds, while Santiago’s Estadio Nacional will have 6,600 Chilean fans shouting for their country.
“I’m not nervous about the crowd” said Khan, “because we have already played in places like Japan and Uzbekistan, with big stadiums. It’s just the world-class players we have to face that make me a little nervous.”
Prospects are bleak for Pakistan indeed. This is the first time they play outside the Asia-Oceania Zone since the World Group was created, and it is, of course, the closest they have ever been to the big leagues. Right after the Gonzalez v Khan match, their best player, Qureshi, will have to face Massu on the second rubber. But Qureshi does not have much more of a chance, on paper at least than his fellow player: he is only No. 355 in the world, while Massu is No. 48 and was No. 9 not very long ago.
“We are very happy just to be here, and we will get a lot of experience playing against the Olympic champions,” said Qureshi. “It’s obvious that they are the favourites, but when I play Davis Cup, I think about winning the three points (both singles and the double). We will see what happens on the court."
Chile, on the other hand, stated that they should win.
“I don’t want to fool anyone, we should win and it should be a strong victory,” said Massu the day before the draw. “But we have to be very serious about it."
Chile has not lost a tie at home since 1996, with a 7-0 record in Chile since then, while Pakistan’s last four ties away have ended in 0-5 washouts. All indicates that this series will not be much different for any of them - but this is Davis Cup, and anything is possible.