ITF, Pakistan, and India 
by Hameed ul Haq

September 4, 2019

The Davis Cup (an ITF property) calls itself the “World Cup of Tennis” but it is unlike any other world tournament we know of.

Most World Championships take place at specific venues only but the Davis Cup takes the game to the people, into the heart of conflict (Home and away ties).

In 2019, 133 nations have entered Davis Cup, making it the world's largest annual international team competition in sports.

It is a fact that each nation is governed by its unique foreign policy, political leanings, diplomatic and historical friends and foes.

But ITF seems to work outside these spheres of influences, bringing its own forms of tennis diplomacy.

Let’s come to the point. For 12 years (from 2005), Pakistan was banned for hosting Davis Cup ties because of security concerns.

ITF lifted the ban in 2017 and when Hong Kong refused to travel to Pakistan in April 2017 they slapped them with a fine and relegated them to a lower group.

This year, India is to play against Pakistan and the tie was scheduled in Islamabad from September 14-15. ITF security officials and their team visited Pakistan for enhanced inspection.

After the inspection, ITF declared the country and venue safe for Davis Cup tie. Pakistan Tennis Federation has also taken all the positive arrangements to smoothly conduct the tie.

But due to recent skirmish between Pakistan and India over Kashmir issue, ITF has postponed the tie till November.

The intensity of the events can be gauged easily since for the past four weeks there have been only two issues on the Indian media -- Kashmir and Pakistan-India Davis Cup tie.

Hence, ITF’s tennis diplomacy is a tightrope walk as India-Pakistan stalemate continues. Now, the matter of neutral venue or Pakistan home tie will be decided by ITF on September 9th.

According to ITF Davis Cup rule book, a Davis Cup tie can be moved from its venue only when there is war, political unrest, terrorism or natural disaster.

But none of these four incidents has taken place recently in Pakistan. India has faced 5 walkovers for reasons other than tennis in its Davis Cup history. India won 2 and lost 3.

And Pakistan has faced 7 walkovers in the history of Davis Cup. Out of 7 Pakistan won 2 and lost 5.

Interestingly, the Davis Cup tie was awarded to Pakistan Sports Board, not to Pakistan. So according to the rules, this Davis Cup Tie cannot be held outside Pakistan Sport Complex.

If ITF wants, the Davis Cup tie can be played without any audience in Islamabad. It already happened in 1987 in New Delhi where India competed against Israel without any spectators/audience.

Only players, officials and security personnel were present to complete the Davis Cup tie. I feel the same can also happen in Pakistan.

The writer is a recipient of Davis Cup Commitment Award.