Aisam out of Open but still in limelight


LAHORE – The ‘Indo-Pak Express’ of Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna went down fighting to the French-Serbian pair in the third round doubles category of the Australia Open on Monday.
Things did not fall in place for Aisam and Bopanna after their successful first two rounds. They used all the weapons in their armory but lost to France’s Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-3, 6-7, 6-7 in another tough third round match which spanned over two hours. Against Llorda and Zimonjic, Qureshi and Bopanna, seeded 10th, got off to a great start, winning the first set 6-3.
But the Indo-Pak duo faced some stiff resistance from Llodra and Zimonjic in the next two sets. Both the pairs fought hard and matched each other in all departments of the game to stretch the second as well as the third sets to tie-breakers.
While the second set went on for almost an hour, the third and the final set saw an absorbing 50-minute battle.
In both the tie-breakers, Qureshi- Bopanna failed to finish it off, even as Llodra and Zimonjic managed to earn crucial points to seal the affair with 6-7 (6-8) and 6-7 (3-7) wins respectively.
Qureshi also lost his mixed doubles match in the first round of the tournament. He was partnering with Czech Republic’s Kveta Peschke. Peschke and Aisam lost to the unseeded Australian pair of Rennae Stubbs and Chris Guccione who won the match 3-6, 6-3, 10-5.
Despite the loss, Aisam received huge press coverage in Australia when he went on court to train with the wheel chair women’s tennis champion Esther Vergeer at the Melbourne Park Tennis Complex.
Aisam could not believe the report he read about Esther Vergeer, the wheelchair tennis champion, that said she had won an amazing 401 tennis matches without a loss, a record that dates all the way back to 2003, including the fact that Vergeer has never lost a singles match in Grand Slam competitions.
“I was shocked,” says Qureshi. “What an amazing achievement in our sport. She is an inspiration. I told my coach that I wanted to meet her [Vergeer] and find out how she has managed to achieve so much.”
Qureshi and Vergeer enjoyed a ‘hit and giggle’ and then Vergeer invited the current world No. 18 doubles player to try playing tennis in a wheelchair, which Qureshi accepted with vigour.
“He’s an awesome tennis player so he’s able to hit the ball well, but then if he needed to push or go from left to right [in the wheelchair] he had some problems; but it took me 20 years to get at this level, so it was good,” Vergeer said.
“The fact that Aisam wants to be involved and do good things for wheelchair tennis is amazing. He is already spreading the message of peace through tennis and wheelchair tennis is part of that because wheelchair tennis is going to be big, especially for the soldiers from wars,” she added.
Aisam said: “Normal athletes take things for granted, we have back aches and we start moaning, we twist our ankle and we start complaining, and there she is without her legs and full of motivation and inspiration and I think it’s great. More people should know about Esther’s achievements; we all know about Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s records, but none of them have achieved what she has achieved, I think it’s unbelievable.”