PARIS May 29 Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq
Qureshi said the positive response to their doubles partnership
suggested there has been a softening of views towards sporting
relationships, at least, between India and Pakistan.
India's Bopanna and Pakistan's Qureshi received a tennis
lesson from Mike and Bob Bryan in the French Open at Roland
Garros on Thursday, losing 6-1 6-4 to the top seeds in their
grand slam bow in Paris.
But far from being downcast, the two said their performance
and the good response back home to their alliance would spur
them on to compete for success in the grasscourt season.
"There have been no problems at all, we have been playing
for a while now," Bopanna told Reuters. "We're representing two
different countries, playing together."
Qureshi has particular first-hand knowledge of the backlash
when sport crosses the rubicon and enters the political and
He raised the ire of the Pakistan Tennis Federation when six
years ago he paired up with Amir Hadad of Israel, a state
Pakistan does not recognise.
The two reached the third round at Wimbledon and scooped an
ATP Humanitarian award for their on-court relationship as
Pakistan authorities urged Qureshi to end the pairing.
The Asian neighbours have had a simmering relationship after
years of conflict over the disputed region of Kashmir.
"(The tie up with Hadad caused) Not a few problems, but a
lot of problems," said Qureshi, who has also briefly teamed up
with India's Leander Paes.
"But I think everyone got the message that you just can't
mix politics, religion and culture or anything into sports.
"They learnt a lot from it. Now the IPL (cricket's Indian
Premier League) has started, a lot of Pakistanis and Indians are
playing in the same team.
"So I am happy that people have realised that religion and
politics you should not mix in sports.
"If cricketers are playing together I am sure they have no
problem with tennis players playing together."
The two insisted that friendship rather than any political
motivation lay behind their decision to team up.
"He is like my best friend on the tour and on the court so
I'm really happy that we're both doing really well," Qureshi
added. "We get along so well and we decided to play with each
"Everyone is happy (with the partnership). They root for
both of us and a Pakistani playing in a grand slam everyone is
"They actually have very high hopes of us and thought
probably we were going to give a tough time to the Bryans, we
disappointed a lot of people there."
The two will now focus on Wimbledon.
"We've got to turn things around on grass later in the year
and the more tournaments we play together we are going to
improve," Bopanna said.
(Editing by Justin Palmer)