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Aisam Qureshi is first Pakistani to qualify for Wimbledon
Deepti Patwardhan in London
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June 22, 2007 09:28 IST

The journey from Roehampton to Wimbledon has left many dreams unfulfilled, but for Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi it is just the beginning.

The 27-year-old beat fourth seed Frank Dancevic of Canada [Images] 4-6, 7-6 (9), 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the last round of the Wimbledon qualifiers to become the first player from his country to qualify for the grass court Grand Slam.

"It has always been a dream to play in Wimbledon, singles; I've played doubles a couple of times," says Qureshi. "Thankfully, I have three days to digest that before I play. But I want to make most of the opportunity.

"I am playing very well now, serving well, returning well, volleying well. So if I get the luck of the draw I hope to do some more damage."

Having beaten world number 11 Richard Gasquet in the first round of the Halle ATP, Qureshi carried the confidence into the Wimbledon qualifying tournament. And it helped when he was a set and set point down in the second against the tall Canadian, an accomplished player on grass himself.

"The win against Gasquet was very morale-boosting. I thought if Gasquet found it difficult to return my serves, so would Dancevic. What happens when you beat world number 11 is that players take notice and are a little apprehensive," said Qureshi, who fired 27 aces in the match.

One bad service game, when he was broken at love, cost Qureshi the first set, but he started strongly in the second. After holding his first game comfortably, he was knocking at an early break. However, Dancevic held on with his powerful serves and ground strokes.

"In the beginning I was going for too many aces, but then I concentrated to get my first serve percentage up. When you serve at 70-80 per cent you are automatically going to hit a few aces."

Both the players were securing their service games without playing safe. While Dancevic, ranked 116, dominated from the baseline, hitting some blazing passing shots, Qureshi was constantly moving forward to knock off his precise volleys.

But the English crowd, lounging on the grass banks of the court, had started warming up to the exuberant Pakistani.

The second set eventually stretched out into the tie-break, but it was eight all before Dancevic went into the lead again. At 8-9 down Qureshi hit in a cracking return to set up the point, leveling the score and creamed the nest two points to level the match.

"If I had gone 0-2 down it would be difficult. I think playing the Davis Cup for so many years helped me," he said.

Dancevic still looked shaken from the second set loss. He was broken in the first two games, conceding a 4-0 lead. Qureshi, meanwhile was riding the wave, and though 15-40 down serving for the third set, he managed to get himself out of the hole.

With the weight of a 1-2 deficit on his shoulders, the Canadian's serve wobbled in the fourth set tie-break. While the Pakistani number one was getting stronger through the match, serving 12 aces in the fourth set compared to three in the first, Dancevic put in a patchy performance.

Qureshi closed out the match with another characteristic ace, sinking on his knees and kissing the ground to mark a milestone in his career and Pakistan's tennis history.

"It's one of the best days, though I think the win against Paradorn (Srichaphan, in Davis Cup) is also very special.

"I've had a very busy year; all the hard work and training that we put in has finally paid off. Now when I play, Monday or Tuesday, I will be ready."

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