Bopanna, Qureshi divided by Indo-Pak clash
New Delhi, March 28, 2011
First Published: 20:00 IST(28/3/2011)
Last Updated: 20:45 IST(28/3/2011)
India's Rohan Bopanna and his Pakistani tennis doubles partner Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi insisted on Monday that the World Cup semi-final between their two nations will not shatter their friendship.
Bopanna and Qureshi, who have used their on-court careers to also promote their "Stop War Start Tennis" campaign, hope the clash in Mohali won't spill over into their ongoing tournament commitments in Miami.
"It's easy to play tennis with him, but I hope we don't play a match on the same day as the cricket match," Bopanna told AFP.
"It will be an interesting match. All of India will stop working to watch it. I'm backing India and I hope they go through to final in Mumbai."
Qureshi, whose friendship with Bopanna stretches back 16 years, said that if they could watch the game on TV in the US, then they would sit together and watch it.
"I want Pakistan to win. They have never beaten India in a World Cup match but they have a better overall record," he said.
"Picking a favourite is not easy, but I have a gut feeling that Pakistan will cause an upset.
"Rohan and I have been friends for 16 years. Nothing against him, but I'll be supporting Pakistan and not his team."
Both men insisted that whatever direction their two nations' political rivalries may take, tensions do not spill over into their relationship.
"I see him as another human being trying to do well in his career. He's helping me and I'm trying to do the same."
Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, who is married to former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, had already admitted that there was a domestic battle for supremacy going on.
"I support India and Shoaib will support Pakistan as usual! The war is on," Mirza wrote on her Twitter account from Miami.
Mirza, 24, married Malik in Hyderabad in April last year amid huge hype surrounding the love-struck cross-border sport stars.
"The last time they played in Mohali I watched the match live. What a semi-final on the line. Wish I could be there," read another tweet.
"It's really exciting," Mirza told AFP. "It's the blockbuster we were all hoping for. I wish I could be there. This would have been perfect as a final, but a semi-final is good enough.
"There are a lot of other things involved other than cricket. India-Pakistan is a battle. Maybe India has an edge."
In Melbourne, meanwhile, Indian Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan, a close friend of superstar batsman Sachin Tendulkar, was still revelling in India's quarterfinal win over three-time defending champions Australia.
"At least we smashed the Aussies," said Karthikeyan.
Members of the Force India team said they will be backing Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team in Wednesday's game.
"There is an exchange of communication with Dr Vijay Mallya (team owner) and the team during matches and, of course, our support is with India," said Bob Fernley, the vice-principal of Force India.
"We know a number of the Indian players through our association and our thoughts and best wishes will be with the team next week."