Pakistan-India peace pair advances to US Open final

NEW YORK — Taking the biggest steps yet in their quest to inspire peace between their homelands, India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi reached the US Open men’s doubles final on Wednesday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 9 Sep 2010, 9:53 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 9:18 AM

With United Nations ambassadors from their countries sitting side-by-side to cheer them on, Qureshi and Bopanna beat Argentina’s Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zaballos 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

“I always believed we would have to do well in the Grand Slams to get the message across,” Qureshi said. “Them coming to watch us here, it’s a big step. They were very encouraging. They said what we are doing is a great thing.

“It just feels like us doing well on the bigger level is getting the message across throughout the world - if me and Rohan can get along so well there’s no reason the Indians and Pakistanis can’t get alongÂwith each other.”

In a breakthrough on the court, they will face US top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan in Friday’s final.

“I’m really looking forward to the finals against the Bryans,” Bopanna said. “To be the best you have to beat the best.”

The ambassadors will be back to watch and so will India and Pakistan fans, cheering together for once.

“They’re all mixed together sitting in the crowd. You can’t tell who is Pakistani and who is Indian,” Qureshi said. “That’s the beauty about sports. Before our pairing you would never see that in any sports, fighting for one cause. It’s really good to be part of it.”

Solving political issues between governments is less of a goal than bringing people together.

“We’re not looking into any political part or anything to do with whatever is happening,” Bopanna said. “If even two or three percent of people say, ‘If they can get along why can’t we?’ that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Qureshi hopes he can change US perceptions regarding Pakistan and the Muslim faith.

“Today was a small step toward (peace),” Qureshi said. “We always said sports can reach places where no religion or politics can reach. I think it’sÂabove all the religion and politics.

“The western world and America, they have a very wrong perception about Muslim and Pakistan,” he said. “Their perception of Pakistan being a terrorist country is definitely very wrong.

“We do have terrorist groups. We do have extremists. But I feel like (in) every religion there are extremists. It doesn’t mean the whole nation is terrorist or extremist.

“The only reason we actually are getting so many terrorist attacks is because we are allies with America and the western world in fighting this cause.”

Qureshi, who will also play in Thursday’s mixed doubles final with Czech partner Kveta Peschke against Americans Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber, dedicates his efforts to the 21 million flood victims in Pakistan.

In addition to the deluge devastation of the past six weeks has been the disgrace of cricket stars Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, who were suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The three allegedly conspired to deliberately bowl no-balls at specific moments during last month’s fourth Test against England at Lord’s.

International cricket in Pakistan was effectively suspended following an armed attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore last year.

“Pakistan has been going through a lot from all the terrorist attacks and the flooding now for the last few months and the cricket scandal,” Qureshi said. “I’m very happy and proud that I can send positive news back home.

“I just hope I keep winning matches for Pakistan and can get either one of these titles or both titles back home. That would be a great thing.”

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