New Delhi: The India-Pakistan connection made them a global talking point at the US Open but Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi do not even consider themselves from two different nations.
They were the first India-Pakistan combination to reach a Grand Slam final and their coming together and doing well at a tennis major, generated a huge interest.
Even the Ambassadors from the two countries to the United Nations came together to cheer them and it was enough for media to add some political colour to the coverage, considering the two countries have fought three wars since becoming independent.
Media coined terms like ‘Indo-Pak Express, Indo-Pak peace pair’ to describe their pairing but Bopanna today said he and Qureshi have never thought about the countries they belong to and their compatibility as individuals was the sole reason behind their partnership.
“Qureshi and I got together because we felt that we would make a good doubles team. We know each other for so long and have a great understanding so it only made sense to play together.”
“We never intended on making any political statement. It is the media who gives us these tags, we never look at each other as being from different countries,” Bopanna told PTI in an interview.
Asked that playing with a strong slogan such as “Stop War, Start Tennis” itself was a political statement, Bopanna said them being ambassadors for peace was the sole reason for having that message on their on-court attire.
“We are just here to play tennis. We are great friends off the court and are looking to take our careers forward together. Since we are ambassadors for peace we try to spread that message through sports. We are not here to make any political statements,” he insisted.
They brought together the two hostile nations to clap, scream and enjoy together and Bopanna said he and Qureshi would love to do more with their partnership.
“Well, we want people to trust and respect each other. Sports should never be subject to religion or politics,” he said.
Talking about the biggest match of their career, the Indian Davis Cupper said he and Qureshi now have the belief that they are Grand Slam material and could soon even win one.
“Earlier we used to win the first set but fall of on the second set and then take the third. But now we want to win big. We focus even harder on the second set, and the entire US Open, the only sets we dropped were in the finals.”
“Also that we can compete at this level and we know we belong here. We just need to stay focused, work hard and we can win a Grand Slam final.”
The runners-up trophy has already earned them a huge bonanza as they are now ranked world number six.
“Hopefully, it will lead to many great performances and eventually take us to the No.1 spot in doubles. I am noted as a confidence player, and I am sure that this final, will help me be a more confident player and doing better.”
Bopanna could have been only the fourth Indian and Qureshi first Pakistani to win a Grand Slam had they beaten the Bryan brothers -- Mike and Bob -- in the US Open final. They are little disappointed to miss out on history but still very much satisfied.
“We are still working our way towards winning a Grand Slam. Despite the result it was a great achievement to make it to the finals. We were a bit disappointed, but looking back I think that is definitely something to be proud of,” he said.