Quotable Quotes: the Unsung.
This fabulous article on Pakistani player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi somehow found its way onto RF.com. Guess it must be a slow news week for the Fed fans.
But even so, it was a strangely fascinating story about a player who’s been a sort of trailblazer for the sport of tennis in his country, and has conducted himself over the years with an open-mind and big heart.
Born into a tennis-loving family, Aisam is Pakistan’s highest ranked player and has been for the last 12 years (reaching the highest ranking of 51).
While he proudly represents the country in Davis Cup, his career hasn’t exactly been free of controversy.
The first time Aisam made the headlines was in 2002 when he paired up with Israel’s Amir Hadad at Wimbledon. Despite progressing to the third round of tennis’s most prestigious tournament, Aisam was slammed by local media and the Pakistan Tennis Federation banned him from representing Pakistan. The decision was eventually reverted but the disappointment still lingers for Aisam. “I was expecting a letter of appreciation from the federation for my performance.”
After Wimbledon, the pair went on to qualify for second round of the US Open, where they were presented the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for playing together despite pressure from their communities.
Sure. As much as we talk about how sport and politics should be kept separate, I can’t help but feel that this idea was illusory to start with – for politics is people. How can sport – the ultimate celebration of people – ever be free from politics?
The key is what kind of politics we use sport for – politics that divide? The kind that spreads hatred and bigotry? Or politics of unity, of universality and peace?
You only need to look to the Winter and Summer Olympics for examples of both. And one of the most striking features of Aisam’s story is how he’s (unintentionally perhaps) used his love of tennis to acquire an open-mind and conquer national divides.
Aisam has been pairing up with Indian players Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj for the last few years and it has proven to be a successful combination. Aisam and Rohan won their first ever ATP title on February 7, 2010, in South Africa, while he reached the Wimbledon third round with Prakash in 2009.
“Indians are my best friends on tour because we speak the same language, eat the same food and we have the same culture…we hang out together.”
Anyhoo, the reason this story ever made it onto the mothership – you might remember Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli competing in doubles in Basel last year. They lost first round to Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and his partner James Cerritani.
“The night before the match, I asked God to give me this win. I thought, this guy has everything. A loss wouldn’t matter to him much but for me, it could be a life-changing experience.”
Life-changing it certainly was. The victory, mostly unnoticed by the Western media, became headlines in Pakistan. And those who saw it wondered what Aisam and Roger said at the net to each other.
“I said, ‘it was an honour to be on the same court as you,’ to which he replied, ‘but mate, we did play each other 13 years ago too.”
Holy shit, does Roger Federer remember every single match he’s ever played?