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Bopanna and Qureshi are now in big league

They might have lost their maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open, but "Indo-Pak Express" Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi are not down with broken hearts.

sports Updated: Sep 11, 2010 19:59 IST

They might have lost their maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open, but "Indo-Pak Express" Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi are not down with broken hearts. Instead, they are taking heart from the stupendous fight they put up against the highly rated Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike.

After the team of 30-year-olds, Bopanna and Qureshi, went down 7-6(5), 7-6(4) to the top-seeded pair in a thrilling finish here Friday, even the Americans felt the India-Pakistan pair has the potential to win a Grand Slam.

The India-Pakistan duo is a unique pairing, coming from the countries who have shared embittered relations for over 60 years. Bopanna and Qureshi, after their success here, are seen as the new paragons of peace, worthy of emulation.

"The whole experience was unforgettable, we have to now believe that we can beat the top teams, with wins against some of the top 10 teams this hard court season, beating the Bryans in Washington, we have a lot of positives to take. Pushing the Bryans all the way in our first Slam final, I think the credit goes to us," Aisam said.

"You know, if we keep working hard individually and as a team, believing in each other, playing our game, sticking to our strengths, I don't see any reason why we can't be world no.1 some day."

"We started taking doubles seriously only this year, the Bryans have been playing together for years and to lose in the tie-breaks by a few points proves that we can compete with the best. I hope, Insha'Allah, the Indo-Pak Express keeps rolling on with many more victories.

Bopanna and Qureshi had beaten Bryans in Washington, the Americans' only loss this summer. The two enthralled the audience with their net sparring with the Bryans but faltered at big points, especially in the tie-breakers.

They, however, insisted that it was not nerves that resulted in their loss in the tie-breakers.

"I think Aisam and I generally play great in tie breaks, so far that's normally been our strength. We have won a lot of matches on the ATP Circuit, but I guess today they had the upper hand, they came up with good shots at crucial stage. They had great reflexes, that's what made the difference," Bopanna said.

"Obviously, it was a great advantage beating them (Bryans) only a month before. We kept telling each other to keep trying and play our hearts out, we did that, but today that wasn't good enough against the greatest doubles team in history. They played the big points really well."

Bopanna and Qureshi have had a roaring year. They reached their third tour-level final at the Pilot Pen in the run up to the US Open. The two captured their first ATP World Tour doubles title in Johannesburg in February and also made their maiden Wimbledon quarter-final.

"I think by far the most important thing is that we believe in ourselves and in each other. We know we can compete and beat tough opponents at this level which is a great confidence booster," Bopanna said.

"The last two weeks have been great, we took out the no.2 seeds, then no.10 seeds, played a close semi-final, so I guess we know that if we stick to our game and play to our strengths we can beat anybody."

Qureshi, who also lost in the mixed doubles final here, is now the first Pakistani to be in a Grand Slam final and only one from his country to be in doubles top 50. He hoped his performance brought some cheers to people back home, rocked by terrorism, corruption and most recently floods.

"Pakistan is going through a dark time, with the terrorist attacks, floods, cricket controversies. I really hope that my performance here brings some good news to them," said Qureshi. "I hope when I go back home the receptions is good."

The two have been sporting shirts with "Stop War, Start Tennis" written on the back, but insist there achievement should not be made a political statement.

"We are not here to make any statement, we just love to play tennis. It's wonderful being ambassadors of Peace and Sport and spreading that message through our tennis is great," Bopanna said.

Aisam, however, hoped their partnership brings a new perspective to the strained sporting ties between India and Pakistan.

"No politics or religion should ever come in sports. I feel cricket is affected because of the strong political aspect to it. Both countries have cricket loving people and only political reasons are stopping the teams from not playing each other," he said.

"I remember when India toured Pakistan, they had great support, the atmosphere was unbelievable."

Bopanna and Qureshi have now set their eyes on top 8 Masters Barclays Open in London and they next play in the Shanghai Masters in three weeks times.