Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi on his life-changing moment with Rohan Bopanna
The year was a breakthrough season for the pair as they reached the doubles quarter-final at Wimbledon before reaching the final - the duo's first in a Grand Slam - in New York.
"The US Open final was a life-changing moment for me,” Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi reminisced during an Instagram Live chat with Indian tennis player Purav Raja.
“It was something that I have always strived for and believed we can achieve. It was an unbelievable experience... and to experience it with the closest friend of mine, Rohan Bopanna was something else.
“The final changed my life. Not just on the tennis court, but off the court as well... I am very thankful to Rohan as well for making me achieve that. So, definitely a moment I will never forget.”
Popularly known as the Indo-Pak Express, the duo not only formed a successful partnership on the ATP circuit but also helped spread the message of friendship between India and Pakistan outside the tennis court.
Hailing from two nations with a tumultuous history and deciding to stand side-by-side on the tennis court, the two exemplified sports’ ability to unite even amidst the turmoil, bridging gaps between religion, politics and culture.
Taking the friendship beyond the court
Having known each other since their junior circuit days, the two became close friends over the years. The first time the duo played together was in 2003 in a Challenger tournament in Denver, USA, which they won.
Despite the success, a gap in their rankings and both players trying to focus on singles events, saw them stay apart on the tennis court for three more years before reuniting in 2007.
Rohan Bopanna’s aggressive and power-oriented style proved to be the perfect foil for Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi’s skilful serve and volley game and the Indo-Pak Express slowly gathered steam.
The duo also strived to bring their friendship beyond the tennis court to foster a message of harmony among their countrymen.
“The biggest thing that we learnt from each other is that we didn’t look at what was happening between the two countries,” the Indian tennis ace said during a separate chat with Sportskeeda.
“We got to know each other when I was probably 16 and he was at a similar age and our friendship grew over the years.
“I think that translated to the tennis court also when we started playing. We didn’t think about anything else apart from tennis and just wanted to try and inspire a few kids.
“All of a sudden we had two countries cheering for one team and that was a big positive feeling for us,” Bopanna pointed out.
The two also pioneered the Stop War, Start Tennis campaign to spread their message and it saw them win the prestigious Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award.
“Sports can be used to mend fences and bring people together. I have always believed that sports transcends all boundaries of religion, politics, caste and creed,” Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi had stated shortly after the 2010 US Open