Posts Tagged ‘ Rohan Bopanna ’

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.”

Off-Court Honour for IndoPak Express

As Reported by Dawn

The two South Asian players who paired up to form a formidable force in men’s doubles tennis have been rewarded for their efforts by the Peace and Sport Organization.

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna were announced as the winners of ‘Peace and Sport Image of the Year’ award by the World Peace and Sport Forum on Friday.

The award is given to the best image of fraternity through sport or a symbolic moment showing the ability of sport to advance peace in the world and to encourage reconciliation among peoples.

“The Peace and Sport Image of the Year Award will be given to India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi – two tennis players who managed to bring the political authorities in their respective countries closer, through their own history of personal friendship and commitment,” a statement issued by Peace and Sport said.

The duo’s ‘Stop War, Start Tennis’ campaign made a breakthrough achievement this year, when they managed to bring together the Pakistani and Indian ambassadors to the United Nations.

Hardeep Singh Puri (India) and Abdullah Hussain Haroon (Pakistan) watched from the stands as the IndoPak Express contested in the men’s doubles semi-finals and final of the US Open 2010 in New York last month.

The winning image, taken by Jay Mandal for the ATP World Tour, shows the two players chatting with the two ambassadors after their semi-final win at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

Based on worldwide open voting competition and jury’s decision the image was declared the winner, having received 60 per cent of the votes cast globally.

Rohan (Hindu) and Aisam (Muslim) have played in a doubles team for three years and are building their careers together, despite historical hostilities that divide India and Pakistan. Motivated by their friendship, they decided to actively campaign for peace between their two nations.

During several events on the ATP World Tour 2010, they wore warm-up gear displaying the slogan “Stop War, Start Tennis”, thus affirming their belief that friendship between India and Pakistan is possible.

“The message of peace given by Rohan and Aisam is a unique source of inspiration for young people in their respective countries, but its significance does not stop there. They use their charisma and their sporting success to raise awareness amongst the entire international community, their fellow athletes and political authorities in their countries, as we saw at the US Open. I hope that their appeal will lead the way to new rapprochement initiatives,” Joel Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport said.

“Sport’s greatest victory is not measured in terms of medals. It is measured by its ability to positively change people’s lives and bring them hope. And that’s exactly what Rohan and Aisam succeed in doing. They demonstrate what champions can achieve when they use their celebrity for a good cause.”

The players’ next humanistic goal is to organize a friendly tennis match at the Wagah border, the only checkpoint that exists between India and Pakistan. This symbolic event, supported by Peace and Sport, will incarnate the wish of Indian and Pakistani young people to live in peace.

Other contestants for this year’s award were, “Young Pentathletes bridge the gap between the USA and Cuba,” “Nelson Mandela, hero of the anti-apartheid struggle and symbol of the 2010 World Cup,” and “Iran and the USA forget their differences on a basketball pitch.”

The award will be presented to the duo by Prince Albert II of Monaco at a grand gala ceremony on December 2.

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.”

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.”

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi – An Unlikely Hero For Pakistani Fans

As Reported by Reuters

KARACHI: For a nation devastated by floods, rocked by terrorism and embarrassed over a cricket corruption scandal, Pakistanis are pinning their hopes on an unlikely sporting star to give the country something to cheer.

Pakistani Muslims will celebrate Eid this weekend and also pray that Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi can add to the festivities by becoming the first tennis player from his country to win a grand slam title.

Tennis tends to slip under the radar in cricket-mad Pakistan but Qureshi has already raised the sport’s profile by breaking new ground for his country after reaching the US Open mixed doubles final and semi-finals of the men’s doubles event.

“I know how important my performances are right now for my countrymen. I am eager to give them something to celebrate about after the floods and cricket scandal,” Qureshi told a local television channel from New York.

“I am really proud to become the first Pakistani to reach the knockout stage of a grand slam event but my job is still not finished as yet,” he said.

Pakistani cricket fans have been left disheartened by the latest controversy to befall the side, a spot-fixing and betting scandal in England that has led to the suspension of test skipper Salman Butt, and pacemen Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.


Qureshi, who is ranked 34th in the ITF men’s doubles rankings, is also no stranger to controversy but has shaken off the problems to flourish as a player.

In 2002, he faced the wrath of his countrymen and national tennis federation for partnering Israel’s Amir Hadad in the doubles event at Wimbledon and the US Open.

He was also criticised when he started his current doubles partnership with India’s Rohan Bopanna three years ago, but Qureshi remains unbowed by any negativity and has always maintained that sport was above caste, creed or politics.

“He has always been a strong character and once he makes up his mind he will not change it,” his mother Nausheen Ehtesham said, adding that her son had the ability to triumph in New York.

“We all need some good news and I am confident my son can do it,” she said.

Pakistan Davis Cup coach Rashid Malik acknowledges that Qureshi’s strong tennis background, his grandfather Khawaja Iftikhar was an all- India champion, and his parents have been a source of great support.

“I think Qureshi always had talent but also had the advantage of parents who supported and financed him. In Pakistan, tennis is not taken seriously as a career although we have talent,” Malik said.

For the last three years, Qureshi has concentrated on a doubles career after attaining a highest ranking of 125th in singles but Malik believes it is still not too late for the 30-year-old to make an impact on his own.

“He just has to work on his fitness and raise its level to do well in singles,” Malik said.

Qureshi is partnering Czech Kveta Peschke in the mixed doubles at Flushing Meadows.

Aisam-Rohan Reach Wimbledon Quarter-Finals: Next Stop, Wagah

By Sehar Tariq for All Things Pakistan

Pakistan’s stellarly good-looking tennis champ Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi became the first Pakistani to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon when along with his Indian partner Rohan Bopannahe beat Lucas Lacko of Slovakia and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in straight sets in the Mens’ Double. Their straight set victory – 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2- in the Round of 16 now take them to the Mens’ Doubles Quarterfinals, and already place them in the top-8.

It was only two years ago that Aisam – who is Pakistan No. 1 and World No. 43 for Men’s Doubles –  became the first Pakistani to play at Wimbledon since 1976. Since then he has been steadily improving his game, including beating a doubles duo with Roger Federer in it last year. The news report in Dawn points out that “the Pakistani number one and world number 42 is a grass-court specialist and has been improving his performance at the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament in the last few years.”

But Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and his doubles partner Rohan Bopanna from India are also attracting a lot of attention for where they come from, and what they are doing together. The unlikely Indo-Pak pair have been playing as one team and they have been sporting tennis jackets that say “Stop War Start Tennis.” Now they have suggested a novel idea of a tennis match played at the Wagah border.

The world is not used to seeing India and Pakistan step onto any field as one team so the unlikely duo have been making headlines. And they are making full and good use of it by promoting the game of Tennis in the cricket dominated subcontinent and spreading the message of peace. Aisam and Rohan met at the age of 16 at a tennis camp and they have been good friends ever since. They are a good example of how friendship can overcome barriers or race, religion and nationality. While their international tennis playing status has allowed them to remain friends and see each other frequently, there are thousands of people on both sides of the border who long and yearn to see the people and places they once loved and knew as home but have been unable to see for over 60 years due to cruel visa regimes and heartless politicians who drive wedges deeper and wider between India and Pakistan for personal gain.

According to a report in the Guardian , the two tennis players want to play a tennis match at Wagah, the border separating India and Pakistan. The border will serve as the net. Aisam will play on the Indian side and Rohan will play on the Pakistani side of the border. I want very much for the two to win the Quarter-Finals at Wimbledon, but maybe even more than that I want to see them playing at Wagah Border Crossing!

The tennis stars are trying to turn this fantastic idea into reality. And at this point in time, I think that is exactly what the two countries need. Their performance at Wimbledon and the recent positive vibes coming from the governments as well as civil society in both India and Pakistan makes this a very good time to pursue this idea.

I don’t know much about tennis but I really want this match to happen! I will go to watch. And I promise to read up everything I can and ask anyone I can to help me understand the game better so I am prepared to watch the war of tennis at the border. And I’m sure a lot of other Pakistanis will too. As will many Indians. We all love a little bit of healthy competition with the Indians!

I don’t know how one goes about organizing a tennis match at an international border. But I wish I knew how to do it. So if any of you have ideas, please help.

I would like to see some Indo-Pak tennis and also some regional peace and good will. And while I watch this match, I will put aside my intensely competitive patriotic feelings and cheer loudly for Rahul Bopanna. So Rohan, you try to make this tennis match happen – and we the 170 million people of Pakistan will cheer you on with all our might!

As both Aisam and Rohan have been saying: Its time to “Stop War Start Tennis!”

Indian and Pakistani Players Join Forces to Promote Peace Through Wimbledon

Valerie Amant for

Lotto spokesmen Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Indian and Pakistani respectively, have decided to join forces as a doubles team at Wimbledon to help promote peace.

The two players, along with Peace and Sport, the Monaco-based and neutral international organization that works towards bringing together divided communities worldwide by encouraging dialogue and reconciliation through sport, have decided to team up at this prestigious sporting event, in order to help maintain and promote peace in their neighbouring countries.

Together with their technical supplier, Lotto Sport Italia, Bopanna and Qureshi have decided to promote this initiative by designing specially made t-shirts and sweatshirts with the high impact slogan “Stop War, Start Tennis”. The t-shirt will be worn during training sessions, whilst the sweatshirt will be used when entering the court before play.

Rohan, currently ranked 54th doubles player in the world, and Aisam, currently ranked 46th, have been friends for over ten years and have teamed up successfully for the last three years. Their respective countries have lived in a situation of unease and tension in the region of Kashmir since it won its independence from the British Empire in 1947. Peace and Sport would like to emphasise how much sport unites, as highlighted by the two players’ partnership.

The two tennis stars took the initiative to promote peace through sport after having noticed that communities from both countries forget hostility when they support them in international competitions. Indeed, during the first ATP tournament in Mumbai in 2007, Pakistani flags were waved inside the stadium during the final.

With the message “Stop War! Start Tennis!” Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi remind us that sport is a universal language that facilitates dialogue, going beyond political, racial, religious, ethnical and social differences.

Joël Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, said: « Rohan and Aisam are big stars in their respective countries. Their story of friendship through sport is a real inspiration for youngsters. By transmitting a message of peace, they hope to change the mentalities and attitudes in India and Pakistan as well as other areas of the world destabilized by conflict. We are extremely proud to support this message that will benefit from the extensive publicity that Wimbledon attracts.

Alberto Fraticelli Marketing & Communications Director, from Lotto Sport Italia adds : « It is with great pleasure and good will that we decided to develop this initiative, in fact we already support “FreeFromLaces”, the movement that through blogs, forums, social networks, music and video, collects and proposes to the entire web community content and ideas that invite the user to reflect and ponder on “laces” that limit our daily routine: those personal, mental, virtual, social, cultural and physical ties that often seem impossible to untie. Through their initiative and personal backgrounds, Aisam et Rohan are perfect incarnations of this philosophy; thanks to sport we can rise above the hate and prejudice that condemns mankind to perpetual conflict, and we are extremely proud to have international representation of our brand, through players like Rohan and Aisam.”

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