Mumbai: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi are one step away from Grand Slam glory after storming into the mens doubles final of the US Open.
The Indo-Pak pair earned a shot at their maiden major victory after taming Argentinas Eduardo Schwank and Horacia Zeballos 7-6 (5), 6-4 (as briefly reported in Thursdays CM edition) in the semi-finals at the Louis Armstrong stadium in New York, on Wednesday.
Its unbelievable, making it this far at a Grand Slam. We are very excited, and of course, there are a bit of nerves, but we will not let the occasion get the better of us, the 30-year-old Bopanna told The Telegraph from New York on Thursday. We will play, without fear, and with so much at stake we will give our best. Hopefully well come out victorious.
The duo, who won their first ATP Tour title together in Johannesburg earlier this year, couldnt have drawn tougher opponents as they will be facing the worlds top pair American twins Bob and Mike Bryan.
Bopanna and Qureshi are 1-1 in head to head against the Bryans. The worlds No. 1 duo recorded their 600th win recently, which is an Open Era record
The Indo-Pak pair lost to the Bryans in the Los Angeles final in July, but avenged that defeat the following week with a second round win in Washington DC. So, the 30-year-olds know they can beat the top doubles pair.
Yes, but a Grand Slam final is a different environment, Bopanna said. They are great champions. They have a wealth of experience, especially in Grand Slam finals. So, we will focus on our game, play to our strengths and if we play to our potential, we can win.
At stake is the winners purse of $420,000. The semi-final win has already assured them $105,000. A win would also make Bopanna the third Indian man to win a Grand Slam crown, after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, while Qureshi will become the first Pakistani to reach the milestone.
The duos message of peace have been the talking point this summer, wherever they have played.
Their hard court season matches have drawn a large number of Asian fans and, often, Indian and Pakistani supporters could be seen sitting together in the stands and cheering the duo on.
On Wednesday, the Indian and Pakistani ambassadors to the United Nations were present in the stands to watch the 16th seeds play.
Bopanna was happy that their effort was having an impact. Its a great feeling to know that you can make a difference, he said. We are glad that our journey is bringing people together and also having a positive impact. Hopefully this will encourage a healthier relationship between India and Pakistan.
Both ambassadors would be back to cheer the players in the final on Friday.
However, their tennis has been shadowed by the fact that an Indian and Pakistani have paired up on the ATP circuit.
Its only natural that the Indo-Pak connect would garner a lot of attention, Bopanna said. But I think its important for everyone to realise that we have come this far because of our talent and hard work. Everyone, in the US and across the world, have recognised our strong performance. We have beaten a lot of top teams to get here.
The players have a days rest before the final but given the excitement of reaching their maiden Slam final, that might not be much.
Neither of us has gotten much sleep since the semi-final to be honest. I will be trying to get as much rest as possible to prepare mentally and physically for the big game, Bopanna said.
Aisam, who had also reached the mixed doubles final with Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic, lost to Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber 4-6, 4-6 on Thursday.
There wont be any shortage of guidance for Bopanna and Qureshi, as both, Paes and Bhupathi will be present during the biggest match of their careers.
They passed on their best wishes and are really happy for Aisam and me. They are going to be cheering for us in the final and that means a lot to us.