Bopanna, Qureshi launch peace campaign

January 3rd, 2011 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Rohan Bopanna Chennai, Jan 3 (IANS) They might as well be called Messengers of Peace as much as a top doubles combination in the making.The India-Pakistan doubles combination of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi Monday launched a “Stop War, Start Tennis” campaign at a pre-tournament media conference during which they announced selling of merchandise adorning the slogan.

“What started out as a simple statement, has now become a world-wide campaign. This is a great opportunity for us to connect with our fans and we are thrilled to finally launch the merchandise,” said Bopanna.

On his part, Qureshi said: “People all over the world have been supporting this cause and we hope that this venture will give them an opportunity to support and spread the message of peace.”

When Bopanna and Qureshi, both 30, decided to team up in 2007, little did they realise the impact they would make in their respective countries that have a long history of acrimony.

Three years hence, the pair, dubbed “Indo-Pak Express” after the more famous “Indian Express” combo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, won several awards that had more to do with their efforts to erect a bridge of peace between their two countries rather than on-court achievements that included a runner-up spot at the 2010 US Open.

The duo was presented with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award last year in recognition of their efforts to forge peace between Pakistan and India.

Here for the Aircel ATP Chennai Open, the pair, seeded second, hoped that the 2011 will see them scale greater heights and perhaps even emulate top seeds Paes and Bhupathi by winning the Slams.

They not only hoped to make progress on the court that has earned them the No.8 spot in World rankings, but also that their continuing partnership would bring about a calming influence on the other troubled spots in the world.

Qureshi said: “We hope to play all the Masters in addition to the Grand Slams this year. Last year, we played only in three.

“But we hope the Indo-Pak Express rolls on and spreads the message of peace not only in India and Pakistan but all over the world.”

When asked about a possible second round meeting with the Asian Games gold medal winning combo of Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh, Qureshi asserted that he wouldn’t look beyond the first match when he and Bopanna take on the Brazilian-Argentine pair of Marcos Daniel and Eduardo Schwank on Wednesday.

“Somdev and Sanam have to win their first round match. We have to do that too,” Qureshi replied.

“I am sticking to Rohan. Honestly, I can’t see why we can’t play the Grand Slams too this year,” he added.

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