SHAHID JUDGE: The primary time the 2 of you had paired up was again in 2003 on the Bristol Challenger. What are your reminiscences from the time?
Bopanna: (On the time) Aisam and I had already been taking part in a number of Challengers… It was a grass-court Challenger that week and we each didn’t have companions, and so we determined to staff up. In Bristol, once we began off, Aisam was taking part in the advert courtroom (left facet of the courtroom) and I used to be taking part in the deuce courtroom (proper facet of the courtroom). Later, in Denver, Aisam’s coach Robert Davis steered we change sides.
SHAHID JUDGE: And also you gained the Denver Challenger.
Qureshi: I keep in mind how we celebrated profitable that as properly, however I can’t share it on this platform… Crucial factor for me was realizing Rohan properly off the courtroom. Once I began taking part in on the Future’s stage, there have been a whole lot of Indians. On the Challenger stage although, there have been fewer. Rohan was one of many high ones and he favored quick courts identical to me.
I thank Rohan rather a lot as a result of there have been so many Indians on the tour, however he selected to play with me. I thank him for the whole lot he has finished for me to get laurels for my nation.
SHAHID JUDGE: Because you had been the one Pakistani participant on the tour, did the presence of Indian gamers assist, due to the widespread tradition?
Qureshi: India has been very essential in my profession. Selecting tournaments in India was the best factor for me as a result of it was simply throughout the border. I actually loved my time taking part in in India. Gelling and hanging out with Indians got here very naturally to me. I keep in mind taking part in a whole lot of Challengers with Bops (Bopanna) in England, Nottingham, Manchester… Going to all of the Indian eating places along with him, Prakash Amritraj, (gamers) Harsh Mankad, Mustafa Ghouse. And in addition going to observe Bollywood films.
SHAHID JUDGE: How did the friendship between the 2 of you develop?
Bopanna: The Europeans stick collectively; the People stick collectively. Aisam was somebody I had identified for such a very long time. Getting together with him simply felt so pure. I don’t assume we as soon as thought that we had been from totally different international locations. It was identical to being with a detailed buddy, we frolicked day-in-day-out. On the tour, it’s like a relationship. You might be continually with that particular person, continually hanging out. And like Aisam mentioned, we performed very comparable tournaments. In order that additionally helped all of us hang around and have an excellent time on tour.
SHAHID JUDGE: Did you typically speak in Hindi to make sure your opponents don’t perceive you?
Qureshi: Yeah. On courtroom I converse with Bops in Hindi. It’s a bonus for us that we don’t should whisper behind our arms, we will simply say it out loud on courtroom and no person goes to grasp. Particularly the swearing half.
SHAHID JUDGE: How vital was it in your careers to make it to the US Open finals in 2010?
Bopanna: It was such an enormous second in our careers, it modified our lives. We performed some improbable tennis in these weeks. Even within the ultimate match there have been two tie-breakers… It was a memorable second.
For mates, households, the international locations, to help one staff was actually large. It was an enormous breakthrough. In the present day, we’re nonetheless taking part in on the tour due to the truth that we had such a breakthrough yr. It’s 11 years later and we’re nonetheless taking part in on the highest stage.
SHAHID JUDGE: You championed the slogan ‘Cease Battle, Begin Tennis’ throughout that tour. How vital is it immediately?
Qureshi: For me, it was rather more vital than making the finals of a Slam. Working with organisations akin to Peace and Sport, the United Nations… They only make you perceive the larger image.
Even in Pakistan proper now, individuals who don’t know tennis however work together with me, they’re at all times speaking concerning the ‘Indo-Pak Categorical’. Even in India… The truth that I simply entered this event with Bops, the sort of messages I’ve been getting is unbelievable. I by no means thought individuals could be this excited to see us teaming up once more. It simply exhibits the affect we made at the moment as properly.
NIHAL KOSHIE: There was a thaw within the relationship between the 2 international locations. Would the 2 of you will have had second ideas about teaming up if the state of affairs wasn’t such?
Qureshi: It has by no means made a distinction what the state of affairs is between India and Pakistan or wherever. I’ve at all times believed that I might by no means combine politics with sports activities and tradition. Now we have to, as people, work in the direction of peace on this world. I actually consider peace is the one option to transfer ahead. Not simply between India and Pakistan, however all through the world.
I’m taking part in with him as a result of we’ve got finished very properly up to now. He’s one in every of my closest mates. However even when issues usually are not good between India and Pakistan, I’ve mentioned no to my nation… I’ve had political stress earlier than as properly when I’ve performed with Bops and once I performed with a Jewish man (Amir Hadad from Israel). However I nonetheless carried on taking part in with my mates. And I might have finished the identical this time round as properly.
NIHAL KOSHIE: In hindsight, would India travelling to Pakistan for the Davis Cup in 2019 have helped in selling peace between the 2 nations?
Qureshi: Anytime an occasion will get known as off or a staff doesn’t need to come to Pakistan or Pakistanis can not go to India, I really feel very disenchanted. The individuals in each the international locations cherish that, it doesn’t matter what sort of collection it’s — a kabaddi match, hockey match or cricket match between the 2 nations.
We used to have the Indo-Pak tennis collection additionally. The collection was unbelievable. It actually helped enhance our requirements as tennis gamers. I actually cherished them. So, it’s disappointing that for political causes this stuff usually are not taking place and sports activities is getting affected. The great thing about sports activities and humanities is that we don’t charge individuals due to their tradition or faith or the nation they belong to. It ought to be left like that… It’s disappointing that Indians can’t come to Pakistan to play, or Pakistanis can’t go to India to play both. (The Davis Cup in 2019, for which the Indian staff was anticipated to journey to Islamabad, was shifted to impartial Kazakhstan by the Worldwide Tennis Federation.)
SANDEEP DWIVEDI: Aisam, are there any reminiscences your grandfather Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed shared with you about his time as a nationwide tennis champion earlier than Partition?
Qureshi: Sadly, I by no means obtained to see him play. My mom by no means obtained to see him play both. I’ve solely seen him in movies and footage. Once I used to journey to India, a few of the older gamers used to come back and inform me that that they had seen him play on the Delhi Gymkhana Membership or in Mumbai.
SANDEEP DWIVEDI: As a visa requirement, how tough was it to go to a police station each day while you had been in India as a teen?
Qureshi: Generally it was irritating, however I at all times knew what to anticipate once I got here to India. I knew I needed to report back to a police station in each metropolis on the time. Earlier than I knew my lodge, I knew which police station to go to. I needed to report back to a station inside 24 hours of my arrival and inform them precisely once I was leaving the town. Apart from that, it used to really feel like house in India. I used to observe Indian films, have Indian meals on a regular basis. I nonetheless assume the perfect daal makhani and hen tikka masala that I’ve ever had in my life has been in Dehradun and I’ll always remember that.
SANDEEP DWIVEDI: On the award ceremony of the US Open ultimate, you mentioned, ‘Individuals have unsuitable notion about Pakistan being a terrorist nation… We’re very pleasant, loving and caring individuals and we would like peace as a lot as you guys need. Might Allah bless us all.’ What made you say that?
Qureshi: If I had provided that speech wherever else, it may not have made that affect. I needed to make it to the ultimate of the US Open for it… After 9/11, I’ve felt a whole lot of discrimination in the US. And I used to be simply speaking about my private expertise of going to the States submit 9/11 and the sort of discrimination I felt. For me, it was a unsuitable notion that People had about Pakistan. If I hadn’t made it to the ultimate with Bopanna on that platform, I don’t assume it could have made that a lot of an affect.
SANDEEP DWIVEDI: Rohan, is there a false impression about Pakistan you can clear since you will have spent a lot time with Aisam?
Bopanna: Whoever I’ve spoken to (in Pakistan) has been improbable and at all times constructive. One incident I have to share is from the time once I went to Aisam’s wedding ceremony. The perform completed fairly late. I used to be headed again to my lodge, when all of a sudden we had been stopped at a checkpost. The cop recognised who I used to be and needed to take selfies. And this was at 3 am they usually had been like, ‘Let’s sit down and have a cup of tea’. It has at all times been about such fantastic incidents.
Then there was the Indo-Pak friendship tour that we had. We had an amazing welcome, nice hospitality. I do know when Aisam got here to my wedding ceremony all the best way to Coorg, everybody needed to speak to him. While you examine an individual and have continually heard about him, you are feeling like you recognize him. All my mates had been there speaking to him as if that they had identified him for 15 years. That I really feel is the actual fantastic thing about this friendship.
SANDEEP DWIVEDI: Aisam, any false impression that you simply need to clear…
Qureshi: I don’t know the political causes as a result of I don’t get entangled in politics a lot. In my private opinion, all of the Indians I’ve met, in India or exterior… There are particular tournaments the place Indians have watched my match. The one purpose they watch my match, even when I’m not taking part in with Bopanna, is the Indo-Pak Categorical… Each time I meet or converse to an Indian, it’s all about love. It’s all about peace and respect. That’s all I can relate with. I don’t know what’s taking place between each international locations on the border or stuff like that. For me, a life misplaced wherever on this planet is miserable and disappointing. I really feel like the entire world has stopped appreciating the worth of human life.