MANILA, Philippines – The last time Patrick John Tierro and Aqeel Khan met in the Davis Cup five years ago, the result was a one-sided 1-6, 6-7 (6-7) win by the Pakistani over the Filipino in what was a no-bearing match after the Philippines surged to an unassailable 3-0 lead in the best-of-5 tie.
The stakes are higher the second time around as Tierro takes on Khan in the opening singles on Friday, April 4 when the two countries meet at the start of the Asia-Oceania Group 2 Davis Cup semifinals at the Philippine Columbian Association indoor claycourt.
“We’ve played Pakistan before so I know his (Khan’s) game. But just like week, I will just go out there and do my best,” said the 27-year-old netter, who reached last week’s semifinals of the International Tennis Futures (ITF) netfest.
It marks the second time Tierro will be playing the first singles after he also kicked off the Philippine campaign in its 3-1 triumph over Sri Lanka in the previous round in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo in February 2014.
The Tierro-Khan match is set at 10 am, followed by the second singles pitting Filipino-American Ruben Gonzales against 22-year-old Samir Iftikhar - a University of New Mexico varsity player, who is playing in only his second Davis Cup outing.
As insurance in case the hosts sweep the first two singles matches, Pakistan team captain Mohammad Khalid penciled in the veteran duo of Khan and Aisam Qureshi in the doubles on Saturday, April 5.
Khan and Aisam Qureshi have been Davis Cup partners since 1998.
Ranked No. 27 in the doubles of the latest Association of Tennis Professional ratings, Qureshi will be up against a familiar foe on the opposing court in Fil-Am Treat Huey. Qureshi will team up with battle-scarred Johnny Arcilla.
“I’ve played Treat in the past but Davis Cup is different,” said Qureshi.
”Since this is for both our countries. I will go all our for Pakistan and no doubt he will go out for the Philippines.”
But Huey might enjoy a slight psychological edge over his Pakistani opponent.
The Filipino southpaw teamed up with regular British doubles partner Dennis in beating Qureshi and Indian Rohan Bopanna 6-4, 7-6 (7-6) in the round-of-16 of the Australian Open quarterfinals last January.
In Sunday’s reverse singles, Gonzales faces Khan while Tierro tangles with Iftikhar in matches that could be reduced to best-of-3 sets should the result be decided by Friday.
Khalid and non-playing Philippine team captain Roland Kraut were both satisfied by the draw Wednesday, April 2 staged at the Parañaque City hall since Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivares is also the Philippine Tennis Association president.
But Khalid did not mince words about his players seeing action at the hot and humid PCA indoor court for the third straight time since 2007.
“While we trained almost under the same conditions in Pakistan, it is still more hot and humid in your country,” he said. “But we formed a strong team for this tie and hope to play better despite your homecourt advantage.”
The Pakistani skipper has every reason to dislike the oven-hot conditions of the venue, having lost to the hosts in 2009 and 2012 at the same court.
The Filipinos enjoy a decisive 5-1 edge over the Pakistanis in head-to-head Davis Cup meetings.
“I am satisfied with the draw’s result and I know PJ (Tierro’s nickname) will be doing his best,” said Kraut, but declined to predict the final outcome of the series.
“We will just take it one game at a time.”
The Filipinos were fortunate to host the tie once again since it should have been the turn of the Pakistanis to stage the event after they hosted the previous four meetings.
But the ITF, citing the restive situation in Pakistan, decided to return the event to the Philippines when no neutral country was available to host it. – Rappler.com