Just like Lee-Hesh, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi are the Asian pair to look out for

While all the sporting excitement in recent weeks revolved around the F1 Indian Grand Prix and the India–West Indies Test series, the Indo-Pak Express duo Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi were quietly making waves on the tennis court. Bangalore lad Rohan, with his Lahore partner, Aisam, won three ATP Doubles titles on the trot, the Gerry Weber Open Stockholm Open and now the BNP Paribas Paris Masters. They have become the second pair from Asia, after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, to have made the ATP Barclays World Finals scheduled from November 20.

Ever since they burst on the scene, with a historic runner-up spot in the US Open championship in 2010, Rohan and Aisam have been among the top 10 pairs in the world, and it was a logical culmination of their successful run over the three seasons that has earned them a spot in the ATP Barclays World Finals that offers bumper prize money.

A few years ago, Rohan's career was at the crossroads. The strapping six-footer was getting nowhere in his singles career. He was predicted to make the World's top 100 in singles ranking by noted coach C.G. Krishna Bhupathi (father of Mahesh). But injuries and the stiff competition in the singles made the breakthrough hard to come by.

Rohan then chose to go full-time with doubles. “Primarily, I was looking at ways to keep myself on tour, and doubles offered me the chance to do it and take care of my expenses to play the ATP circuit,” said Rohan. Well, that strategy paid off, as he kept winning with different partners and finally settled for Aisam. “We hit it off well from the first tie, and his game complemented mine and we developed a great understanding on the court and off it,” said Rohan. The successful pair stuck on and the 2010 US Open performance was the icing on the cake, though they went down to the formidable American siblings, Bob and Mike Bryan.

In tune with their exploits on court, the Rohan-Aisam pair is a shining example of Indo-Pak amity and perfect ambassadors of peace. In fact, they make a conscious effort to spread the message of peace by sporting T-Shirts emblazoned with ‘Make Peace not War', and have won several thousand admirers cutting across both countries. It was fitting that in 2010, they were conferred The Peace and Sport Image of the Year Award.

“We wanted to play an exhibition match at Wagah Border last season, but it fell through owing to security concerns,” said Rohan. The two have always been looking for such opportunities to accelerate the peace process between the two countries. “The thought that he is a Pakistani or I am an Indian never crosses my mind. We are good friends and good partners and if our efforts on court and off it do something for peace in the area, I am happy about it,” said Rohan.

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Match PointJanuary 13, 2011