Much like last weekend, Aisamul Haq Qureshi is preparing for another battle after the Davis Cup World Group-I play-offs against India. This weekend he is to contest the elections of the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF).
The score in favour of India 4-0 does not truly represent the tennis that Pakistan played, with Aisam and Aqeel Khan leading the tie as usual for the last two decades.
The momentous occasion was that the Indian team finally came to Pakistan after much drama before the tie where they had appealed to move it to a neutral venue.
“I am very proud of our performance, I think the stand I took in 2019 had an impact, Pakistan may have lost, but it was a win for tennis,” Aisam told The Express Tribune, referring to the tie when the International Tennis Federation had awarded the decision in India’s favour and shifted Pakistan’s home tie to a neutral venue.
Aisam had chosen to not play it on the principle that if other teams in other sports could visit the country then why could not the Indians?
“I really believe that all the sacrifices made by the security forces to assure that Pakistan is a safe venue and there is no reason for anyone to not come here,” said Aisam.
But mostly he feels elated that the tie has been a success for tennis and Pakistan because of all the hype that came for the sport through India’s visit, and being an advocate for peace Aisam sees it as bridging the gap between two countries.
“I am very glad that the Indians came, because it gave that hype to tennis, and tennis can bridge the gap, it can be a force of peace,” said the 43-year-old who has dedicated much of his career to peace activism as well, he is also a founder of Stop War, Start Tennis initiative.
“This sent out the message to the international community that if Indians can come here then anyone can come.”
Even though Pakistan lost 4-0, the team gave their all, Aisam even fought through the first singles rubber-despite an injury. The news that follwed after the match was a blow for Aisam.
“Mentally, emotionally, physically we gave everything we could in this tie. It was very emotional for me because during the first singles rubber, I was winning, it was a very close match but then I pulled my groin but I carried on because a lot was riding on this rubber, everyone was watching and I thought I needed to carry one. Later I was very emotional when the physio suggested that I should sit out the doubles match. It was the first time I wasn’t playing the doubles,” revealed 2016 Wimbledon mixed doubles semifinalist.
If he wins on February 10, he will effectively become the first active tennis player also to hold the presidency of the federation.
The conversation smoothly segued into the topic of elections as Aisam shared his thoughts on the gap that needs to be filled once he and Aqeel stop playing, as so far no other player has come forth with the standard and commitment.
“I am contesting the elections because I can help the players Inshallah,” said Aisam, who has played tennis at all four grand slams, at the highest level.
He had been backed by five nominations out of 15 affiliate units of the federation. These units include the Army, Navy, Pakistan Air Force, International Lawn Tennis Club of Pakistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Association.
His opponent will be retired army man Asghar Nawaz.
Was it an easy decision was Aisam to contest the elections?
He concedes that it was not,” but I have always put Pakistan first, this time now it will be on a grander note.”
He plans to take everyone on board and as an athlete particularly he will be able to come up with better solutions for the sport that most non-athlete administrators do not come with because they had not experienced the sport in the same way.
“Idea is to maximise the opportunities and make the most of those that we have to improve.”
When asked if he is feeling any pressure, Aisam was quickly surrendered,
“I am not feeling any pressure because I am doing this for others, for the players for Pakistan, I have never been a part of political drama or tensions my entire career, I have always kept Pakistan and tennis above it all. I would feel any pressure like that if I was doing this to gain anything for myself, but since that isn’t the case I am perfectly fine, even if I lose I’ll carry on serving my Pakistan like always, I have Ace Academy, we will keep developing the talents, I am working with U14 and U18 kids we’ve sent them abroad as well. I aim to instill professionalism in Pakistan Tennis that we lack so much.”