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Pakistan appeals Davis Cup venue change

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JULY 24: Aisam-ul-Haq Quereshi of Pakistan motions to his partner Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico before serving to Ben McLachlan of Japan and John-Patrick Smith of Australia during the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station on July 24, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

The Pakistan Tennis Federation has described as “discriminatory and unfair” a decision by the International Tennis Federation to move a Davis Cup tennis fixture between India and Pakistan from Islamabad to a neutral venue.

The ITF wants the match moved because of security concerns and political tensions related to the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. PTF president Salim Saifullah has said a formal appeal against the decision has been made.

Pakistan was originally scheduled to host India for the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I fixture on September 14 and 15 at the Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad. In July, the ITF had said it was “satisfied with the arrangements” following a visit to Islamabad as part of a mandatory security risk assessment before all Davis Cup ties.

But, following an appeal by the All India Tennis Association and an independent security review, the ITF postponed the fixture and announced the move to a neutral venue, saying: “The ITF and Davis Cup committee’s first priority has always been the safety of athletes, officials and spectators, and the decision was made on this basis.”

The ITF has asked Pakistan to propose a new venue outside the country for the rescheduled fixture on November 29 and 30.

Hironmoy Chatterjee, AITA’s secretary-general, backed the move and told Al Jazeera: “As the political atmosphere between India and Pakistan is not conducive at the moment, we had made several requests for a change of venue to ITF. The Davis Cup committee after assessment of the situation has taken the right call so that the tie can be played under a friendly atmosphere for both teams.”

PTF president Saifullah said: “ITF is becoming hostage to politics. This is all politics, which is unfortunate.” He said AITA’s appeal for a venue change was an attempt to gain an advantage in the fixture: “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.

“We have pointed out that we are fully prepared to host India for the Davis Cup tie as there is no security issue and nor should political ties between the two countries over-ride our chance of hosting a major event.

“We have a recourse to appeal, and we’ll give them valid reasons why it should not be shifted from Islamabad. I think our case is very strong because there is no viable argument for shifting the tie to a neutral venue.”

Saifullah also said that, if the appeal was rejected, the PTF would look at other options: “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.”

Pakistan last hosted India’s Davis Cup team in Lahore in March 1964. The two sides last met in the event in 2006 in Mumbai. Pakistan has played matches at the Islamabad venue against Uzbekistan, Korea and Thailand during 2017 and 2018.

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