x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pakistan make headway in Davis Cup climb

Pakistan made it past the second round of the Group II Asia/Oceania phase for the first time since getting back to the level in 2009 on Sunday, beating the Philippines 3-2.

Pakistan broke through a long-frustrating wall at the Davis Cup on Sunday, taking a step closer to a hopeful return to Asia/Oceania Group I by finishing off a second-round, 2-0 fightback to beat Philippines 3-2 in Manila.

Aqeel Khan topped Johnny Arcilla 4-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, 5-1 with Arcilla retiring during the final set, then Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi defeated Patrick-John Tierro 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to make the comeback complete.

The result was a complete reverse of Friday, when Tierro beat Khan and Ruben Gonzales beat Samir Iftikhar, both in straight sets. Pakistan began to turn the tide on Saturday when Khan and Qureshi teamed up to beat Arcilla and Treat Huay in straight sets in the doubles match.

It was Pakistan’s second away victory in Asia/Oceania Group II play, at the third level of the Davis Cup pyramid. They beat qualifier Vietnam 3-2 in the January-February round, that time with Khan winning two singles matches and pairing up with Qureshi to win the doubles.

Last year Pakistan were eliminated in the second round by New Zealand, who earned promotion to Group I by beating the Philippines in the third-round final.

Two years ago the Pakistanis were whitewashed 5-0 by Philippines in the second round, and the year before they were shut out 4-0 by South Korea at the same stage.

Pakistan, in fact, had reached the second round only to lose in each of the five years they have participated in Group II since promotion from Group III in 2009. They were last in Group I in 2006 before suffering the first of successive relegations.

Pakistan now face Thailand, who have beaten Hong Kong and Kuwait, both 4-1, on their way to the third-round final, with the winner promoted to Group I for the 2015 Davis Cup.

If Pakistan achieve promotion, they will move to Group I with China, South Korea and New Zealand, among others. India and Uzbekistan advanced to the 2015 World Group play-offs out of Group 1 this year. The World Group play-off winners are slotted into the Davis Cup tournament proper against the seeded nations – the eight first-round winners from the previous year’s tournament.

Pakistan last achieved the heights of the World Group play-offs in 2005, when they were beaten 5-0 by Chile. That was the third of four successive years at the Group I level before the slump that began in 2006.

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