‘We had to think of our players’ families,’ says Hong Kong tennis after pulling out of Pakistan Davis Cup tie

‘Difficult decision’ not to play tie had to be made after terrorist attacks in the country, says HKTA chief – and now Hong Kong could face a ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 10:14pm

Hong Kong are praying to avoid a Davis Cup ban after pulling out of next month’s tie with Pakistan – with the sport’s chief insisting, “We had to think of the players’ families,” after recent terrorist attacks in the country.

Hong Kong’s team had one of the city’s best Davis Cup results in more than a decade when they beat Vietnam away to reach the Asia/Oceania Zone Group II second round, but weren’t comfortable with playing in the Pakistan capital Islamabad.

Among at least 15 terrorist attacks in the country in 2017, a suicide bombing by Islamic State in Sehwan, near Hyderabad, killed 88 people in February.

The Hong Kong government has issued a red travel alert for the country, warning of “significant threat” and advising against all non-essential travel.

Officials from the Hong Kong Tennis Association (HKTA) appealed to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to allow the tie to be played at a neutral venue, but they were rejected.

Under Davis Cup rules, Hong Kong faces a ban from next year’s competition.

“We fought very hard in the last tie and it’s very unfortunate we won’t be able to send a team, but we feel the safety of our players is the prime concern,” said HKTA chief executive Chris Lai.

Pakistan beat Iran at home in February, after Iran also initially expressed concerns.

“Pakistan haven’t been allowed to host home ties for the last 12 years, and though the ITF just lifted this this year, we’re not entirely convinced it’s safe to travel there,” added Lai.

“It’s a difficult decision because Hong Kong has never forfeited a tie, but the players’ safety was our prime concern – there have a few very deadly attacks after their first tie against Iran, so we were very concerned.”

The Hong Kong team that beat Vietnam in February had two teenagers and a 21-year-old among the four players, and Lai admitted that played into the HKTA council’s decision.

“We have to be answerable to their families,” he added. “Jack [Wong Hong-kit] is just 18 for example, families would be concerned we were posting their children into danger and as a responsible [National Sports Association] it was a difficult decision we had to make.”

The ITF’s independent tribunal apparently rejected Hong Kong’s appeal on the grounds that Islamabad is heavily policed and safer than outlying regions.

“They have a security advisor based in Islamabad and they said their security assessment gave the green light,” said Lai.