‘Sports, arts don’t rate people on religion, country. It should be left like that… Disappointing that India, Pak don’t play’


SHAHID JUDGE: The first time the 2 of you had paired up was again in 2003 on the Bristol Challenger. What are your recollections from the time?

Bopanna: (At the time) Aisam and I had already been enjoying just a few Challengers… It was a grass-court Challenger that week and we each didn’t have companions, and so we determined to crew up. In Bristol, once we began off, Aisam was enjoying the advert courtroom (left facet of the courtroom) and I used to be enjoying the deuce courtroom (proper facet of the courtroom). Later, in Denver, Aisam’s coach Robert Davis recommended we change sides.

SHAHID JUDGE: And you gained the Denver Challenger.

Qureshi: I keep in mind how we celebrated successful that as nicely, however I cannot share it on this platform… The most vital factor for me was realizing Rohan nicely off the courtroom. When I began enjoying on the Future’s degree, there have been a number of Indians. At the Challenger degree although, there have been fewer. Rohan was one of many high ones and he preferred quick courts simply like me.

I thank Rohan so much as a result of there have been so many Indians on the tour, however he selected to play with me. I thank him for the whole lot he has executed for me to get laurels for my nation.

SHAHID JUDGE: Since you had been the one Pakistani participant on the tour, did the presence of Indian gamers assist, due to the frequent tradition?

Qureshi: India has been very essential in my profession. Choosing tournaments in India was the simplest factor for me as a result of it was simply throughout the border. I actually loved my time enjoying in India. Gelling and hanging out with Indians got here very naturally to me. I keep in mind enjoying a number of Challengers with Bops (Bopanna) in England, Nottingham, Manchester… Going to all of the Indian eating places along with him, Prakash Amritraj, (gamers) Harsh Mankad, Mustafa Ghouse. And additionally going to observe Bollywood films.

SHAHID JUDGE: How did the friendship between the 2 of you develop?

Bopanna: The Europeans stick collectively; the Americans stick collectively. Aisam was somebody I had recognized for such a very long time. Getting together with him simply felt so pure. I don’t suppose we as soon as thought that we had been from completely different international locations. It was simply like being with an in depth pal, we frolicked day-in-day-out. On the tour, it’s like a relationship. You are consistently with that particular person, consistently hanging out. And like Aisam stated, we performed very related tournaments. So that additionally helped all of us hang around and have a very good time on tour.

SHAHID JUDGE: Did you usually speak in Hindi to make sure your opponents don’t perceive you?

Qureshi: Yeah. On courtroom I converse with Bops in Hindi. It’s a bonus for us that we don’t must whisper behind our arms, we are able to simply say it out loud on courtroom and no one goes to know. Especially the swearing half.

SHAHID JUDGE: How vital was it in your careers to make it to the US Open finals in 2010?

Bopanna: It was such an enormous second in our careers, it modified our lives. We performed some implausible tennis in these weeks. Even within the remaining match there have been two tie-breakers… It was a memorable second.

For pals, households, the international locations, to assist one crew was actually big. It was an enormous breakthrough. Today, we’re nonetheless enjoying on the tour due to the actual fact that we had such a breakthrough yr. It’s 11 years later and we’re nonetheless enjoying on the highest degree.

SHAHID JUDGE: You championed the slogan ‘Stop War, Start Tennis’ throughout that tour. How vital is it right now?

Qureshi: For me, it was way more vital than making the finals of a Slam. Working with organisations corresponding to Peace and Sport, the United Nations… They simply make you perceive the larger image.

Even in Pakistan proper now, people who don’t know tennis however work together with me, they’re all the time speaking concerning the ‘Indo-Pak Express’. Even in India… The truth that I simply entered this match with Bops, the type of messages I’ve been getting is unbelievable. I by no means thought people would be this excited to see us teaming up once more. It simply exhibits the affect we made at that time as nicely.

NIHAL KOSHIE: There has been a thaw within the relationship between the 2 international locations. Would the 2 of you’ve gotten had second ideas about teaming up if the scenario wasn’t such?

Qureshi: It has by no means made a distinction what the scenario is between India and Pakistan or anyplace. I’ve all the time believed that I might by no means combine politics with sports activities and tradition. We must, as people, work in direction of peace on this world. I actually consider peace is the one solution to transfer ahead. Not simply between India and Pakistan, however all through the world.

I’m enjoying with him as a result of we now have executed very nicely prior to now. He is considered one of my closest pals. But even when issues aren’t good between India and Pakistan, I’ve stated no to my nation… I’ve had political strain earlier than as nicely when I’ve performed with Bops and once I performed with a Jewish man (Amir Hadad from Israel). But I nonetheless carried on enjoying with my pals. And I might have executed the identical this time round as nicely.

NIHAL KOSHIE: In hindsight, would India travelling to Pakistan for the Davis Cup in 2019 have helped in selling peace between the 2 nations?

Qureshi: Anytime an occasion will get referred to as off or a crew doesn’t need to come to Pakistan or Pakistanis can not go to India, I really feel very disenchanted. The people in each the international locations cherish that, it doesn’t matter what type of collection it’s — a kabaddi match, hockey match or cricket match between the 2 nations.

We used to have the Indo-Pak tennis collection additionally. The collection was unbelievable. It actually helped enhance our requirements as tennis gamers. I actually cherished them. So, it’s disappointing that for political causes these items aren’t occurring and sports activities is getting affected. The fantastic thing about sports activities and arts is that we don’t rate people due to their tradition or faith or the nation they belong to. It should be left like that… It’s disappointing that Indians can’t come to Pakistan to play, or Pakistanis can’t go to India to play both. (The Davis Cup in 2019, for which the Indian crew was anticipated to journey to Islamabad, was shifted to impartial Kazakhstan by the International Tennis Federation.)

SANDEEP DWIVEDI: Aisam, are there any recollections your grandfather Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed shared with you about his time as a nationwide tennis champion earlier than Partition?

Qureshi: Unfortunately, I by no means bought to see him play. My mom by no means bought to see him play both. I’ve solely seen him in movies and photos. When I used to journey to India, a number of the older gamers used to come back and inform me that they’d seen him play on the Delhi Gymkhana Club or in Mumbai.

SANDEEP DWIVEDI: As a visa requirement, how tough was it to go to a police station every single day once you had been in India as a teen?

Qureshi: Sometimes it was irritating, however I all the time knew what to anticipate once I got here to India. I knew I needed to report back to a police station in each metropolis on the time. Before I knew my lodge, I knew which police station to go to. I needed to report back to a station inside 24 hours of my arrival and inform them precisely once I was leaving town. Other than that, it used to really feel like residence in India. I used to observe Indian films, have Indian meals on a regular basis. I nonetheless suppose the perfect daal makhani and rooster tikka masala that I’ve ever had in my life has been in Dehradun and I’ll always remember that.

SANDEEP DWIVEDI: At the award ceremony of the US Open remaining, you stated, ‘People have wrong perception about Pakistan being a terrorist country… We are very friendly, loving and caring people and we want peace as much as you guys want. May Allah bless us all.’ What made you say that?

Qureshi: If I had given that speech anyplace else, it won’t have made that affect. I needed to make it to the ultimate of the US Open for it… After 9/11, I’ve felt a number of discrimination within the United States. And I used to be simply speaking about my private expertise of going to the States put up 9/11 and the type of discrimination I felt. For me, it was a incorrect notion that Americans had about Pakistan. If I hadn’t made it to the ultimate with Bopanna on that platform, I don’t suppose it might have made that a lot of an affect.

SANDEEP DWIVEDI: Rohan, is there a false impression about Pakistan that you possibly can clear since you’ve gotten spent a lot time with Aisam?

Bopanna: Whoever I’ve spoken to (in Pakistan) has been implausible and all the time optimistic. One incident I need to share is from the time once I went to Aisam’s marriage ceremony. The perform completed fairly late. I used to be headed again to my lodge, when out of the blue we had been stopped at a checkpost. The cop recognised who I used to be and wished to take selfies. And this was at 3 am they usually had been like, ‘Let’s sit down and have a cup of tea’. It has all the time been about such great incidents.

Then there was the Indo-Pak friendship tour that we had. We had an amazing welcome, nice hospitality. I do know when Aisam got here to my marriage ceremony all the way in which to Coorg, everybody wished to speak to him. When you examine an individual and have consistently heard about him, you are feeling like you realize him. All my pals had been there speaking to him as if they’d recognized him for 15 years. That I really feel is the true fantastic thing about this friendship.

SANDEEP DWIVEDI: Aisam, any false impression that you need to clear…

Qureshi: I don’t know the political causes as a result of I don’t get entangled in politics a lot. In my private opinion, all of the Indians I’ve met, in India or outdoors… There are sure tournaments the place Indians have watched my match. The solely cause they watch my match, even when I’m not enjoying with Bopanna, is the Indo-Pak Express… Every time I meet or converse to an Indian, it’s all about love. It’s all about peace and respect. That’s all I can relate with. I don’t know what’s occurring between each international locations on the border or stuff like that. For me, a life misplaced anyplace on the earth is miserable and disappointing. I really feel like the entire world has stopped appreciating the worth of human life.


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