February, 10 2014 08:27:44

Absence of top player dims VN hopes

HA NOI (VNS) — The controversial absence of its top-ranked player has cast a cloud over the Vietnamese team as it prepared to face Pakistan in the Davis Cup qualification Group II Asia-Oceania zone matches on Friday.

Meanwhile Pakistani coach Mohammad Khalid said last Saturday that he is hopeful that his team can defeat a vastly improved Viet Nam.

The Pakistani team arrived in Viet Nam on Saturday with only three players. The final list of visitors will be fixed before the draw on Thursday.

Pakistan has set a target to gain a Group I berth next year.

Talking with reporters soon after landing, Khalid said he knew some of Viet Nam's young players were good and hopes that his team can win, although it would be a difficult task. However, he said his players would play "a beautiful game" for local spectators.

Aqeel Khan, former world No 349, said his team had carefully prepared for the match over the last three weeks. He and his team had defeated Viet Nam 3-0 nearly six years ago, but Viet Nam's tennis level has since improved significantly and this year's matches would be difficult to predict, he said.

On the Vietnamese side, seven athletes have been called to train for the tournament. However, young talent Ly Hoang Nam has not been scheduled to compete as his club, Becamex Binh Duong, did not consent to his participation.

In a letter sent to the Viet Nam Tennis Federation (VTF) last week, the club managers said Nam was young and not ready to compete in a tournament where five-set matches are played. They said this could cause unexpected injuries and harm the 17-year-old's confidence in case he lost. He also needs to rest after a recent two-month tour of South America, the letter said.

But VTF Deputy Chairman Nguyen Quoc Ky, said that Nam, the national No 1, could face a three-year ban from all tournaments organised by the VTF if he did not participate. Ky said players must fulfil their responsibilities for their clubs as well as the national team.

In response, coach Tran Duc Quynh, who has trained Nam since he was nine, said: "It is just an invitation from the VTF to players to take part in Davis Cup or Fed Cup. It is not a duty. Joining the team may be an honour to athletes, but for some reason they can refuse, and then the honour will be given to others."

Quynh noted that Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan had also declined to participate as he was busy with other tournaments, but no punishment was handed out.

Additionally, Nam did not join the team in the Group III event last year, Quynh said. — VNS

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