New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Akhtar Ali has been part of Indian tennis for five decades -- first as a player and then as a successful coach. Now his son Zeeshan is following in his footsteps, doing everything he did, to make it the only father-son duo to coach Davis Cup teams.
Akhtar got emotional talking about his and his son's tennis graph. What has delighted him is the confirmation from the International Tennis Federation Thursday that he and Zeeshan are indeed the only father-son to coach Davis Cup teams.
Akhtar is here on a thanksgiving mission apart from watching Zeeshan handle the Davis Cup team. He says he is grateful to the almighty for bestowing on them the rare distinction.
"It's a great feeling to hear from the ITF. When I was a coach, Zeeshan used to watch me from the stands. Tomorrow it will be my turn to do so when my son is part of the Indian squad as coach," Akhtar told IANS.
Akhtar, who was part of the Davis Cup team that made the final in 1967, has been the India coach for over two decades in different phases. He was also in charge of the team that shocked a formidable French side in the 1993 Davis Cup quarterfinals.
Zeeshan told IANS that he could not have asked for more than having his father to see him make his debut as a Davis Cup coach.
"It feels great to be the only father and son duo to coach a Davis Cup side. It is a great honour to represent your country as a player and now as a coach and realise that you have earned a rare distinction," he said.
Talking about his son, Akhtar lamented that Zeeshan had not got the Arjuna Award.
"I think he was a deserving candidate. He has been a seven-time national champion. It is sad that he gave up tennis early. I believe that he will do good in his new role as the Davis Cup coach. It is a big challenge for him," he said.
Zeeshan was appointed the Davis Cup coach despite strong objections from the Somdev Devvarman-led rebel players.
Akhtar said he was honoured to be part of the Indian Davis Cup team and requested the rebel players to keep aside their differences with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) in the national interest.
"For me representing India in any capacity, be it as a player or a coach, was always a great honour. It is sad to see that some of the young players are being misguided. They should realise that at the end of the day they are the losers, not those who led them up the garden path," he said.