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April 7, 2018

Aqeel edges Fayziev as Istomin outwits tired Aisam


April 7, 2018

ISLAMABAD: It was all square 1-1 following the action-packed opening day singles in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie between Pakistan and Uzbekistan at the Pakistan Sports Complex grass court on Friday.

World No 85 Denis Istomin took visitors 1-0 up, winning the opening singles against Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi 7-6 (17), 4-1 (retired), while Aqeel Khan lived up to his reputation as he overpowered Sanjar Fayziev 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-4 to put Pakistan back in contention.

With nothing separating the teams, there is everything to play for on the second day (today).After the first singles loss, all eyes were focused on Aqeel to keep Pakistan in the tie. Even after losing the first set on the tie-break, the veteran fighter did not lose heart and even started playing better game than what was seen in the first set. He broke Fayziev at 3-3 and got clear holding on to his serve. Aqeel made the rushing Uzbek pay many times, winning five consecutive points from 0-40 to get the crucial break which was enough to take the second set 6-4.

“I knew well I had a chance against Fayziev as he not only started showing exhaustion with each point, but he also happened to be too aggressive, possibly trying to finish off points as soon as possible.

“I had my own plan and that worked,” Aqeel said. Fayziev took injury time after losing his serve very early in the third set. Aqeel, however, showed no mercy to his opponent till the time he was serving for the match.

It was possibly more due to complacency that he conceded some crucial points on his serve to go down 0-40 before recovering well to win point after point and ultimately chipping it out of Fayziev’s reach to help his team go into the final day with 1-1.

“Fayziev played well and he did all he could to stay in the match. Thanks God I recovered in time to take the set and the match,” Aqeel added. In the earlier match, Aisam got two break points at the outset of the tie, only to see seasoned Istomin bouncing back to keep the set on service. The Uzbek was so cool and calculated that Aisam had to gather all his reserves to stay at par with the player.

Istomin was brilliant with his passing shots and was seen playing from baseline most of the time. On the other hand, Aisam tried to kill the ball, mostly playing serve and volley game. In the process he sent in seven aces against only three Istomin was seen digging in.

Both succeeded in holding on to their serve till the time first set entered the tie-break. In a never-ending tie-break it was difficult to pick the winner. The tiring Aisam faulted four times in the tie, recovering to hang on in the marathon tie breaker.

Ultimately Istomin got the opportunity for the kill as he sent Aisam to one end, before unleashing the winner.Aisam was seen struggling going into the second set and was 2-1 down when cramps started appearing. When he was treating himself on the sideline, chair umpire awarded two back-to-back games against him for delaying tactics which ultimately forced him to concede the match.

“Aisam played well. Possibly cramps got the better of him in the second set,” Istomin said. Aisam has been declared fit to play the doubles match on Saturday (today). “He has recovered and will play doubles with Aqeel,” a team official said. The reverse singles will also be played today.

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