Islamabad - Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s financial help to Pakistan Davis Cupper Samir Iftikhar has won domestic and international praise. The 21-year-old became the country’s first Davis Cup star to set the finest standards of scholarship and athleticism with exemplary academic performance by earning most prestigious 2012/13 ‘Scholar Athlete Award’ from Governing Body of ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) of USA, which represents NCAA (National College Athletic Association). This feat has made Samir a role model sportsman, scholar and athlete. Despite hectic tennis schedule which involves round the year extensive travel all over the US to compete in NCAA intervarsity competitions, Samir achieved cumulative GPR of 3.76/4 (A plus) for academic year 2012/13. He earlier in November 2013 had matched his academic glory with excelling in tennis by earning distinction as country’s only player since 1972 after ex-stalwarts Haroon Rahim and Zulfiqar Rahim to qualify in the elite 32 main draw of national intercollegiate championships held at Flushing Meadows New York, upsetting 20th nationally ranked Andy Beatles in regional semifinals at Las Vegas. It is pertinent to mention here that Samir is on tennis and athletic scholarship at University of New Mexico (UNM) and is playing highly competitive year round intervarsity tennis circuit and is carrying green flag high with his exceptional results. He is only player since 1998 to date after his cousin Aisamul Haq who won four ITF junior world-ranking titles for Pakistan in 2010 along with simultaneous national men’s and junior singles titles in the same year. He continued his winning spree in 2011 with unbeaten run at national trials to debut Pakistan Davis Cup team with Aisam and represented Pakistan against Hong Kong and South Korea before departing for USA. He is also a recipient of Prime Minister’s award of ‘Sporting Excellence’ in 2010. Samir’s achievement gives message to youth of the country that by sheer hard work, dedication, balance of time between sports and academics, it is possible to excel in both even at international level. Talking to The Nation, Tayyab, father of Samir, said: “I dedicate the prestigious award to worthy Punjab CM Shabaz Sharif whose timely financial help enabled me to pay college dues in time and helped Samir achieve this exemplary feat and make Pakistan proud.” He also lauded the CM’s revolutionary reforms for the youth and establishment of endowment funds for financially weak veteran sportsmen who have served the country. “I have exhausted all my resources to bring Samir to this level and now struggling to keep up with the educational and tennis expenses. I am positive that Punjab CM Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif will take steps to help my son fulfill his goals. It is my appeal to govt, generous persons, multi-nationals and corporate sectors who have large advertisement budgets to sponsor and invest in the youngster as their brand ambassador in forthcoming NCAA intervarsity season and any investment now will bear fruit in shape of further laurels to the country in future,” Tayyab concluded.