Posts Tagged ‘ Indo-Pak Express ’

Indo-Pak Tennis Duo Lifts Paris Crown

By Khalid Hussain for The Arab News

The Indo-Pak Express of Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and India’s Rohan Bopanna claimed their first ever ATP Masters crown when they crushed France’s Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut in a one-sided final in Paris on Sunday.

Aisam and Bopanna were in full flow in a final that jusxt lasted for 65 minutes as they raced to a 6-2, 6-4 triumph in the Paris Masters final in the French capital to bag their third title of the season.

Before Sunday’s title-winning triumph, the Aisam-Bopanna duo had won the Gerry Weber Open at Halle and the Stockholm Open. Ranked seventh in the world doubles rankings, Aisam and Bopanna had already qualified for the year-ending ATP Masters finale to be played in London later this month. The Paris win gave the pair 1000 ranking points and a prize purse of 134,500 euros.

Aisam and Bopanna were on the attack right from the word go and broke their rivals in the third and fifth games to open up a comprehensive 4-1 lead in the opening set within 20 minutes into the final. Twice they were down 0-30 but did not lose control over the set as they bounced back to win it with ease.

Benneteau and Mahut, who had shocked top seeds Mike and Bob Bryan en route to the final, managed to put up a better show in the second set but failed to stop their rampaging opponents from winning the title.

Both the pairs were locked in a close battle in second set and at one stage were locked at 4-4. But the Indo-Pak team broke Mahut when the Frenchman committed his second double fault in the ninth game, sixth overall, to offer a break chance. Aisam and Bopanna then served out the match in the next game after facing a few anxious moments.

The result should come as a huge morale-booster for Aisam and Bopanna in the lead up to the London finale where the duo will be competing for the first time.

“We’ve been working hard and hopefully will produce more positive results in the future,” said Aisam, who together with Bopanna, reached the final of the US Open men’s doubles event last year.

The Aisam-Bopanna duo has been making headlines for all the right reasons in recent times. And it’s not just their exploits on the international tennis circuit that’s keeping them in the spotlight. Aisam and Bopanna – regarded among leading sport stars in the sub-continent – are also campaigning for peace between Pakistan and India, two neighboring countries, which have been at loggerheads for the best part of the last six decades.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note
– Congratulations to the Indo-Pak Express for winning their first major ATP Championship! Clearly, together India and Pakistan can conquer the world!

The “Indo-Pak Express” Overthrows No. 2 Seeds to Reach Semis in Monte Carlo

By Erin Frauenhofer for

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.

Indo-Pak Express: Chugging for Peace

Originally posted on Aman Ki Asha

The unique tennis doubles team, Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Indian Rohan Bopanna popularly known as ‘Indo-Pak Express’ have urged their governments to allow tennis matches across the border.

There is growing support for their symbolic event – the Stop War Start Tennis campaign. Both players want a match organised between the two countries, but with a twist. They want the match to be held with a net strung across Wagah border. Now that would be a great feat.

The duo are hopeful that their doubles partnership will improve bitter relations between their countries, particularly since the initiative is now backed by the world tennis body and an international peace group.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has thrown its support behind the scheme, along with Peace and Sport, a non-governmental organisation run by Prince Albert of Monaco.

“A lot of good things have been achieved, the ITF is now supporting this, Peace and Sport is also supporting this,” Qureshi, who is also Aman ki Asha Ambassador, has said. “The letters have gone to both the prime minister and president of both countries.

“It is a political issue and there are a lot of security concerns, so we are just hoping that the governments will give us the green light so we can play that match on the border.”

Both players, who were finalists at last year’s US Open and gave their opponents, the top-seeded Bryan brothers tough competition, are confident of a positive response from their respective governments.

“Things are going in the right direction,” Qureshi said.
“Last year, at the US Open, both the UN Ambassadors for Pakistan and India came and watched our matches, which was a huge thing and they are supporting the cause as well.
“Things are going in the right direction; we just have to keep playing our matches and get more and more publicity on the bigger occasions. Hopefully it will happen this year.”
– Aman Ki Asha

Break for the Border: Indo-Pakistan Tennis Duo’s Dream for Peace

As Reported by CNN

One half Indian, the other Pakistani, they are the most talked-about partnership in tennis.

Dubbed “the Indo-Pakistan Express,” Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi hope to end their breakthrough year with a showdown at the infamous Wagah border that divides their countries.

Bopanna, an Indian Hindu, and Qureshi, a Pakistani Muslim also aged 30, reached their first major doubles final at the U.S. Open in September and climbed to eighth in the world rankings.

Yet their work off the court has attracted just as much attention as they try to soften the often-fractious relationship between their two nations since partition in 1947.

The pair have been honored with a string of awards for their humanitarian work in the past 12 months, and are determined to start picking up tournament titles in 2011.

But a showpiece clash at the notorious border crossing that hosts a nightly pageant between India and Pakistan’s border forces would be the perfect way to carry their “Stop War, Start Tennis” campaign into the new year.

“We’re thinking how to get to a wider audience and spread the message of peace through our partnership and thought,” Qureshi told CNN’s Open Court.

“How about playing a match at the Wagah border, with Rohan playing on the Pakistani side and me on the Indian side for a gesture of friendship?

“At the U.S. Open the ambassadors to the United Nations for Pakistan and India both came to watch the semifinals and finals. That was a huge deal because normally you don’t see two diplomats cheering for one cause — it was a really positive sign. I just hope in the near future we can have that match at the border, that would be great.”

The village of Wagah, near the Indian city of Amritsar and the Pakistani city of Lahore, is the only road border crossing between the two countries, and the daily ceremony — which includes a lot of strutting, stamping and saluting — regularly attracts a crowd of thousands.

A match there could be a watershed moment for a pairing that first emerged in 2003 but did not make a major impact until this season.

Their burgeoning partnership on court is allied to a deep-rooted desire to strengthen links between two countries which have a long and deep distrust of each other.

“We’re both brand ambassadors for an organization called Peace and Sport,” Bopanna said. “Right now we’re trying to see if we can help tennis in both our countries, promote it and keep the sport growing as much as we can.”

As well as receiving the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award at the recent ATP World Tour Finals in London, they were also given the Peace and Sport Award for 2010 at a glittering ceremony in Monaco.

I’ve always told him I think he’s the most popular Indian guy in Pakistan this year!
–Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi on Rohan Bopanna

The citation read: “Their commitment to promoting peace between the two countries and their conviction that peace was possible was shown amply during the year.”

Joel Bouzou, president of the Peace and Sport Foundation, added of the proposed Wagah match: “The sport is ready for peace. Will the two governments rise to the occasion?”

Their partnership may have attracted plenty of headlines but for Qureshi, teaming up with his Indian counterpart made perfect sense.

“I’ve been playing with Indian players ever since I started playing tennis,” he said.

“Unfortunately there are not that many Pakistanis on the tour, and playing with an Indian was actually the most natural thing that came to me — having the same language, most of the time having the same dinner, Indian or Pakistani foods in the evening.

“The first time I ever traveled to India when I was 16, I was one of the top [Pakistani] juniors and he was one of the top juniors in India and that’s how I got to know him.

“Knowing his attacking style of play, I always knew if we played together we’d be able to make a really good impact. I think results clearly show in that way I was right, though normally he tells me that I am always wrong!”

As well as their run to the final of the U.S. Open, where they were beaten by the Bryan brothers from America, they also enjoyed success at Wimbledon which made them household names back home.

“This year we made the quarterfinal at Wimbledon and that was very, very big in Pakistan,” Qureshi said. “I’ve always told him I think he’s the most popular Indian guy in Pakistan this year!

“I can thank him enough for that because obviously without him I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all those goals, and with him being my best friend on the tour it makes it the icing on the cake. It’s been a great journey so far.”

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi Delivers Message of Peace at U.S. Open After Indo-Pak Express Suffers Defeat

By Stefan Bondy for NY Daily News

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi delivered his message loud and peacefully, and it had nothing to do with forehands or backhands, or even the doubles title he failed to win.

As a Muslim from Pakistan playing in the U.S. Open doubles final, he said New York needed his words the most, as post-9/11 counsel. So the 30-year-old grabbed the microphone and addressed the estimated 15,000 at Arthur Ashe Stadium – probably the biggest crowd to watch a Grand Slam doubles final – and made sure the moment wasn’t lost.

“I want to say something on behalf of all Pakistanis,” he said following Friday’s 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) defeat to the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike. “Every time I come here, there’s a wrong perception about the people of Pakistan.

“They are very friendly, very loving people. We want peace in this world as much as you guys.”

The crowd cheered. By now, such poignancy is expected from Qureshi and, to a lesser extent, his doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna of India. Together, they’ve formed the politically charged tandem known as the Indo-Pak Express, breaking down barriers with their kinship and jettisoning expectations with their recent play.

Their respective neighboring countries have warred with and terrorized each other since the 1940s, citing religion as their great chasm. But Qureshi and Bopanna, a Hindu, represent peace, both on and off the court. Indian and Pakistani fans filled pockets of Arthur Ashe Friday, arriving as early as two hours before the match. U.N. ambassadors from both countries sat side-by-side in the President’s Box – the second straight match they’ve attended together – cheering the same unexpected struggle their team brought to the greatest doubles team of all time, the Bryan brothers. The 16th-seeded Qureshi and Bopanna followed up their run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals with five wins in Flushing.

“They’ve proven that when Indians and Pakistanis get together we can raise fire,” Pakistan ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said. “I think on a people-to-people basis, they’re setting an example that the politicians should follow.”

Prize money and rankings were never a motivating factor, Qureshi said, only good news for his flood-stricken countrymen and a platform to express his message of American misunderstanding. He also defended the decision to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site.

“For me, as a Muslim, that’s what makes America the greatest country in the world – freedom of religion, freedom of speech,” Qureshi said. “If the mosque is built, I think it’s a huge gesture to all the Muslim community out there in the world. I would really appreciate it.”

Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, has long been considered a headquarters of Al Qaeda.

Qureshi said he’s been stopped at airport immigration “every time” in New York – three hours at a time – including after his latest flight for the Open. And on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he wanted to defend his country’s masses.

“Since September 11, every time I come to the States or western countries I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation,” Qureshi said. “I just wanted to declare that we are very friendly, loving and caring people, and we want peace in this world as much as Americans and the rest of the world wants.

“There are extremists in every religion, but just because of them you cannot judge the whole country as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to get this message across as a Pakistani.”

Qureshi Uses U.S. Open Platform to Call For Understanding

By Matt Majendie for Reuters

Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi used the platform of the U.S. Open to deliver a message of peace on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Qureshi lost in Friday’s men’s doubles final alongside India’s Rohan Bopanna, the other half of a unique partnership nicknamed the “Indo-Pak Express.”

In his on-court after-match speech, Qureshi said: “I feel there’s a very wrong perception of Pakistan as a terrorist country.

“We are a very peace-loving country and we want peace as much as you.”

Peace has very much been the message of Bopanna and Qureshi since their doubles partnership began with them sporting “Stop War, Start Tennis” sweatshirts in a bid to improve relations between their two countries.

Qureshi delved further into the message he was trying to get across at Arthur Ashe Stadium after the 7-6 7-6 defeat to Americans Bob and Mike Bryan.

“Since September 11, every time I come to the States or Western countries, I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation,” he said.

“There are extremists I think in every religion but, just because of them, you can’t judge the whole country as a terrorist nation.

“I just want to get this message across as a Pakistani.”

Qureshi said he vividly recalled the moment of the 2001 attacks in New York, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

An up-and-coming tennis player at the time, he had been at a training camp in Holland when he saw events unfold at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

“It was strange but I was going through the channels and I actually thought it was a movie or something,” he recalled. “I switched the channel again and then felt like it was the same movie on a different channel.

“I was kind of confused. Everything was mostly in Dutch so I couldn’t really understand. Then I actually realized what had happened. It was a very shocking moment.”

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