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Davis Cup opening round clash against Lebanon

14 February, 2012

KARACHI: Aqeel Khan on Monday clinched one of the best wins of his long Davis Cup career when he thrashed Lebanon's Karim Alayli in straight sets to take Pakistan into the second round of the 2012 Davis Cup tournament in Beirut.

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Pakistan desperately needed Aqeel to rise to the occasion after Lebanon's Bessam Beidas stunned their ace player Aisam-ul-Haq 3-0 and the Karachi-based player didn't disappoint them as he cruised to a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-1 win to give the visitors a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the Asia-Oceania zone Group-II opening round encounter.

Pakistan began the third and final day of the best-of-five tie at the ATCL Club 2-1 up after Sunday's doubles win and it seemed that Aisam will once again be their hero. But Beidas, Lebanon's number one player had other ideas. The 24-year-old Beidas, who was born in London but is based in Cairo, just crushed Aisam 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 to level scores 2-2 for Lebanon.

Beidas, who had also defeated Aqeel Khan in their singles clash on the opening day, is currently ranked 523 in the world singles rankings. After Aisam's loss, Pakistan's hopes for a place in the second round rested on Aqeel's shoulders. Though Aqeel has a vast Davis Cup experience, he mostly plays second fiddle to the more accomplished Aisam. But Monday was his day.

Aqeel held his nerve in what was a tense first set but after winning it 7-6 on a tiebreaker he was just unstoppable. Producing some good serves and excellent returns he raced to 6-4, 6-1 wins in the next two sets to give Pakistan a well-deserved victory in what was a tricky tie.

“It was a very difficult tie for us not only because it was played on sandy clay courts but also because Lebanon have a very good team. Beidas, their number one player, is exceptionally good,” said Ihtishamul Haq, Aisam's father who witnessed the tie in Beirut.

The first-round encounter was supposed to be played in Lahore but was shifted to Beirut by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after Lebanon raised security concerns about traveling to Pakistan. Pakistan will now meet Philippines in the second round match to be played from April 6-8. Philippines routed Pacific Oceania 5-0 in a one-sided opening round clash on Sunday.

End.