The “Indo-Pak Express” Overthrows No. 2 Seeds to Reach Semis in Monte Carlo
By Erin Frauenhofer for 10SBalls.com
The India/Pakistan pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi made waves at the Monte Carlo Masters with a quarterfinal upset over No. 2 seeds Daniel Nestor of Canada and Max Mirnyi of Belarus. With a 6-1, 7-5 victory on Friday, the sixth-seeded duo advanced to Saturday’s semifinals, where the pair will play Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela and Brazil’s Bruno Soares.
Bopanna and Qureshi took command in the first set, breaking Nestor’s serve and holding steady on their own serve to take a 4-1 lead. The “Indo-Pak Express,” as the pair has been dubbed, remained in control for the rest of the set, breaking Mirnyi to give Qureshi the opportunity to serve for the set. Bopanna and Qureshi won the game to wrap up the first set handily, in only 21 minutes.
Nestor and Mirnyi displayed a stronger performance in the second set, after suffering an early break to fall behind 1-2. They rallied back to break Bopanna and Qureshi in the next game, and both pairs held serve for the next four games, until Nestor and Mirnyi were broken once again.
At 5-4, Bopanna and Qureshi had their first chance to serve for the match, but Nestor and Mirnyi battled back to even the score with a break. Bopanna and Qureshi retaliated in the next game with another break to take a 6-5 lead.
Serving for the match for the second time, with victory nearly in sight, Bopanna and Qureshi dropped the first two points of the game but recovered to close out the match. Bopanna and Qureshi broke their opponents a total of five times during the match and lost their serve twice.
Friday’s win was the second victory of the tournament for Bopanna and Qureshi. After receiving a bye in the first round, Bopanna and Qureshi notched a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over the American/Netherlands Antilles duo of Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer to reach the quarterfinals.
Chela and Soares have recorded three wins in the tournament thus far. The duo took a straight-set win in the quarterfinals, defeating Ukranian Sergiy Stakhovsky and Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 6-4, 6-3. In the previous round, the pair upset No. 8 seeds Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Russia by a score of 6-2, 6-4. Earlier, Chela and Soares had prevailed in a three-set first-round match, outlasting Michal Mertinak of Slovakia and Dick Norman of Belgium, 6-2, 3-6, 10-7.
Monte Carlo is the first clay-court Masters tournament for the Indo-Pak Express, and the duo has high hopes for the French Open. Bopanna and Qureshi’s strong showings this year and efforts toward peace between their countries have earned them an enthusiastic and steadily growing following.
Bopanna and Qureshi have made recent headlines for their request to play an exhibition match on the India-Pakistan border in an attempt to foster reconciliation efforts between the two nations. As part of a “Stop War, Start Tennis” campaign, the duo plans to string a net across the Wagah border crossing and switch sides during the match.