Sixty-three years since gaining independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have succumbed to three wars, numerous arguments, and several border clashes breaking the countries into ideological opposites. But none of that has stopped tennis stars Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi of Pakistan and Rohan Bopanna of India from achieving high levels of success in the US Open, currently being held in New York.
Qureshi, a 30-year-old Muslim hailing from Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore, has been playing professionally since 1998. He is the first Muslim player to enter the mixed and men's doubles of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. However, the remarkable thing about Qureshi is not his nationality or religion, but his unlikely partnership with Bopanna.
The doubles pair have been using their friendship, on and off the court, as a call for the resolution of the conflict between their two countries. Their recent campaign, "Stop War, Start Tennis," which was first introduced in Wimbledon, has created a stir amongst Indians and Pakistanis who want to see more peaceful times between the two countries.
In fact, defeating Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the semi-finals was perhaps not the only success for the duo. Sitting in the stands of the match were Hardeep Singh Puri and Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the Indian and Pakistani ambassadors to the , who watched the match together.
Between the duo, the complicated web of theological, military, and intellectual differences place as much importance on perception as it does performance, making their pairing controversial to begin with, according to The Star-Ledger.
Blogger Christopher Mayers writes: "The two players admit that they are asked questions about their unlikely partnership, but they also state that ‘you could not differentiate between us, as it was the same country before partition. So it's just the same as going with [anybody] and playing together. We complement each other with our styles.'"
The Indian-Pakistani pair is ranked 16th in the ATP team rankings. Qureshi and Bopanna have advanced to their first Grand Slam final as they face the American Bryan brothers on Friday.