In the last several days, there's been plenty of press about the players, their practice sessions, their familiarity or otherwise with grass, that sort of thing. But I'm a little surprised that nobody seems to have remembered something quite unusual about Pakistan's #1 player, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.
A few years ago, Qureshi formed a doubles team with an Israeli player, Amir Hadad. They played with some success on the Challenger circuit, and entered Wimbledon and the US Open in 2003, I think. Muslim and Jew, Pakistani and Israeli -- as you can imagine, they raised a number of eyebrows.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation even asked Qureshi not to play with Hadad, because Pakistan does not recognize Israel, let alone maintain diplomatic relations with that country. They threatened to ban him from tennis (how were they going to enforce such an absurd thing?). When the International Tennis Federation announced that any such move by the PTF would result in sanctions against Pakistan, and that they would not be able to participate in the Davis Cup, the PTF ate its words.
Pakistan does not recognize Israel. But Qureshi recognizes Hadad, and recognized his tennis talent enough to want to partner him, regardless of muttered prejudice and threats. That's the kind of man who just beat Rohan Bopanna (7-6, 6-4, 6-4) in the first singles. I don't care what else he does in tennis for the rest of his life: Qureshi's partnership with Hadad was example enough. Hats off, Aisam and Amir.
And I wonder, what if Qureshi and Bopanna decide to form a doubles team? How would our respective tennis federations react? How would all of us on both sides of a British-drawn border react?
Writer called Akshay Sawai covers tennis for the Hindustan Times. He's been writing about tennis for a long time, for different papers, and I've long admired his knowledge of and passion for the game.
So I was amused to read this in his report of yesterday's draw for the Davis Cup:
- [At the draw ceremony] Prakash Amritraj, India's highest ranked player, found a piece [of cake] being thrust at him. But it was Lent and he has given up dessert and soft drinks. So, despite the formality of the event at Maharashtra governor SM Krishna's residence, the 22-year-old got up and kept the piece back on the table.
Amritraj, and India, will need the same discipline and boldness to win the tie against the tricky Pakistanis.