Archive for September 16th, 2010

Hero’s Welcome for Aisam

By Umar Farooq for The Express Tribune

LAHORE: Aisamul Haq Qureshi returned home to a hero’s welcome with thousands of fans greeting him at Lahore airport to catch a glimpse of the Pakistan tennis sensation.

Aisam, who reached the finals of the US Open men’s doubles and mixed doubles events, became the first player from his country to achieve the feat.

“I feel like a winner,” said Aisam, who partnered Indian player Rohan Bopanna. “I might not have won the US Open title but the reception here has made me feel like I won the Grand Slam event.”

Though the Pakistan-India pair went down against top-seeds Mike and Bob Bryan 7-6, 7-6, Aisam won the hearts of millions of fans through a moving speech at the closing ceremony, acting as an ambassador of peace on behalf of the country. The 30-year-old also climbed to a career-best number six in the ATP Doubles  team World Rankings.

“Following the recent success, I am now eying the number one spot in the doubles rankings,” said Aisam, whose welcome was held in collaboration with the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) and the Punjab Lawn Tennis Association.

Meanwhile, partner Bopanna was happy with the success and admitted a lot of hard work went into the win.

“This entire year was a transition period for us. We started thinking seriously about doubles, put our heads and our games together and started getting good results,” said Bopanna to The Hindu. “We were combining well and knew it was only a matter of time that comfort with each other would translate into wins.”

However, Bopanna, 30, admitted that he was nervous about playing the doubles final.

“It was a huge moment for me to play the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Aisam had already played the mixed doubles final there, so I was the nervous one. But as soon as I hit the first ball, everything was fine.”

A new source of inspiration

The PTF has hailed Aisam’s success and termed the 30-year-old as a ‘source of inspiration for the youth of the country’.

“He indeed is the new hero of Pakistan and I am proud of him,” said the PTF President Dilawar Abbas. “His performance and achievement is remarkable and appreciated by all Pakistanis.

“I believe sportsmen are the best ambassadors of peace and goodwill and Aisam’s gesture in the ceremony has won many hearts.

“It not only helps the country but this will boost the scope of sports in the country.

“What Aisam said in the ceremony was enough for the government to take a cue from,” said Abbas.

Aisam’s mother, a former national tennis champion, and his sister Shiza Qureshi, also a tennis player, were proud of Aisam’s achievements.

“He is a winner for us,” said Nosheen Ahtisham. “Winning and losing is part of the game. But to reach this far is impressive enough. The pair competed well throughout the match and it was touch and go in the end.”

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