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Rediff.com  » Sports » Doubles is about the team: Aisam

Doubles is about the team: Aisam

Last updated on: January 6, 2011 12:22 IST

'Doubles is about the team'

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Bikash Mohapatra in Chennai

A player who achieves success at a later stage of his career probably understands better what it means to him and what it takes to achieve the same.

He cherishes every such moment and values the people who've helped him achieve it more.

And if that success has been achieved in partnership with someone, then the chances of him contemplating breaking that combination is remote.

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi is one such example.

Having had the best year of his professional career (2010) at an age when most tennis pros contemplate quitting the game (30), the Pakistani player had no qualms in admitting who helped him achieve whatever he success he had last year.

"The strength of a team is the most important thing in doubles," said Aisam, explaining partner Rohan Bopanna's contribution to his success.

"I am looking forward to having a good year in doubles along with Rohan," he added.


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi (left)

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'Rohan has made things easier for me'

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Aisam first teamed up with Bopanna back in 2003 at the Manchester Trophy and three years later, the duo played their first challenger final in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

However, it was in 2007 that the duo started playing on a more regular basis, winning four challenger titles in successes and using that momentum to reach their maiden ATP final as a team -- at the Mumbai Open.

In the process they raked up a 19-match winning streak thereby clearly indicating that the partnership was working well and could achieve more if given adequate time to blossom.

Recalling those days Aisam expressed his gratitude towards his partner, admitting Bopanna ensured he was never lonely.

"There are many Indians on the tour but no other player from Pakistan," he explained, adding, "I was the only one.

"So, in a way he (Rohan) made things easier for me."


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

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'We will win our first major soon'

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With not much happening to their respective singles career, the duo turned their focus completely on doubles last year.

Explaining what made them take the decision, Aisam reminisced, "I have always believed together we can make a big impact on the circuit."

The impact was immediate. The duo won their first ATP title together at Johannesburg and followed it up with final appearances at Casablanca, Nice and New Haven.

And then they tasted their biggest success thus far.

They reached their first major final at the US Open and even though they lost in two tie-breaks to the Bryan brothers, they had finally announced their arrival on an international platform, as a force to reckon with.

"We played well throughout last year and pretty much beat every team in the top 10," explained Aisam, adding, "We just have to try and do that on a consistent basis.

"And Inshallah, we will win our first major together soon."


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

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'Teams should stick together when chips are down'

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Their success also made them understand further the importance of teamwork.

"In doubles, it is important to stick to a partnership," explained Aisam.

"A lot of teams achieve a high together and then separate after a low," he added, before going on to claim that his partnership with Bopanna will be a long-term affair.

"I hope to play with him for a long time. I am totally committed to Rohan," said the Pakistan player, adding, "We need to show others that doubles is all about partnerships and a combination shouldn't be broken when the chips are down.

"The strength of a doubles team comes from staying together when the going is not good."


Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

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'Stop war, start tennis'

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Besides their exploits on court, the duo's 'Stop War, Start Tennis' campaign to promote peace is drawing considerable attention as well.

Aisam's poignant speech after the US Open final last year made a lasting impact. And he and Bopanna were awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award for 2010.

It was the second occasion that Aisam, an UN Goodwill ambassador, had won the prestigious honour, having received the same in 2002 for his stance of separating religion and politics from sports -- in those days his pairing with Israel's Amir Hadad had generated considerable curiosity and controversy.

Aisam thereby became the lone person in the 27-year-old history of the award to be honoured twice. Ask him the same and he says it is a reward for his belief.

"I believe in peace -- and our campaign -- and will continue doing what I believe in," explained Aisam, adding, "I hope we can win laurels for both the countries while simultaneously spreading the message of peace."



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'2011 will be better than 2010 for us'

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The fact that he reached five finals with Bopanna and got into the top 20 in the doubles rakings last year has made Aisam aspire for more this year.

And the Pakistan player expects nothing less than a maiden major title.

"I don't see any reason why we can't win Grand Slams together," said Aisam, before going onto elaborate why he believed the duo are ready for the same.

"While we played in just two Masters Series events last year, our ranking now helps us to play all the nine of those events," explained the 30-year-old adding, "And this makes a huge difference in terms of points and rankings.

"We are looking forward to playing in them and the Grand Slams as well. And Inshallah, 2011 will be a better year for us than 2010."


Image: India's Rohan Bopanna and partner Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi

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