Qureshi gives Pakistani sports fans something to cheer

Wed Sep 8, 2010 2:45pm EDT
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KARACHI (Reuters) - For a nation devastated by floods, rocked by terrorism and embarrassed over a cricket corruption scandal, Pakistanis are pinning their hopes on an unlikely sporting star to give the country something to cheer.

After a month of fasting for Ramadan, Pakistani Muslims will celebrate Eid this weekend and also pray that Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi can add to the festivities by becoming the first tennis player from his country to win a grand slam title.

Tennis tends to slip under the radar in cricket-mad Pakistan but Qureshi has already raised the sport's profile by breaking new ground for his country after reaching the U.S. Open mixed doubles final and semi-finals of the men's doubles event.

"I know how important my performances are right now for my countrymen. I am eager to give them something to celebrate about after the floods and cricket scandal," Qureshi told Geo Super channel from New York.

"I am really proud to become the first Pakistani to reach the knockout stage of a grand slam event but my job is still not finished as yet," he said.

Pakistani cricket fans have been left disheartened by the latest controversy to befall the side, a spot-fixing and betting scandal in England that has led to the suspension of test skipper Salman Butt, and pacemen Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.


Qureshi, who is ranked 34th in the ITF men's doubles rankings, is also no stranger to controversy but has shaken off the problems to flourish as a player.

In 2002, he faced the wrath of his countrymen and national tennis federation for partnering Israel's Amir Hadad in the doubles event at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.   Continued...

<p>India's Roban Bopanna (R) and partner Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi talk during their doubles match against Germany's Philipp Marx and Slovakia's Igor Zelenay at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 25, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>