Great opportunity for our players to build relationships in Pakistan: Somdev

By Debayan Mukherjee

Kolkata, July 26 (IANS) Former India No. 1 tennis player Somdev Devvarman feels it's a great opportunity for the Davis Cup team to "build relationships" with their Pakistan counterparts when they go there for the two-day Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie in September.

"It's great. Honestly, I wish I was part of the team," Somdev told IANS in an interview facilitated by Sony Pictures Networks.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for our players to go and experience Pakistan. Amazing opportunity for young athletes to go and build relationships with countries that we have problems with historically," said Somdev who is now the national observer for tennis.

"It's a message of peace and play tennis in a competitive environment with mutual respect. I hope they make the most of it," he added.

After the International Tennis Federation (ITF) gave Pakistan the green signal to host the Davis Cup tie at the grass courts of the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) has begun the process of checking player availability and sorting visa applications.

"We got the invitation yesterday. Now we will apply for visas. It's a lengthy process, so we have to do it beforehand," AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee told IANS on Friday.

The sports ministry has also cleared the Indian team's participation in the tie. This will be the first time since 2006 that the two countries will meet in the Davis Cup.

Pakistan did not host a Davis Cup tie for 12 years due to security reasons. The ban was lifted by the ITF in 2017.

If India do not turn up for the away tie, they would be slapped with a fine like Hong Kong were after they refused to play an away tie in Pakistan. They were not only fined but also relegated to a lower division.

"None of the players or coaches have voiced any concern and I am hopeful they all will go," Chatterjee said.

There is no official announcement yet from AITA on their decision to send the team.

(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at debayan.m@ians.in)

--IANS

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