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Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi – Tennis Star

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi (Urdu: اعصام الحق قریشی‎) (born 17 March 1980) is a professional tennis player from Pakistan. He is currently Pakistan’s top player. A top-10 doubles player, his highest singles ranking was no. 125. He is the only Pakistani tennis player to reach the final of a Grand Slam, which he did in 2010, competing in both mixed doubles (partnering with Květa Peschke) and men’s doubles (partnering with Rohan Bopanna) at the US Open.

Assalam o Alaikum and thanks for being on the show
Q. Why is it so that after 70 years we have just seen one player like Aisam Ul-Haq, no other big name?There are but not prominent as you are
A.To start with for the past 70 years or so, tennis has never been a popular sport in Pakistan, it’s always been squash, cricket or hockey. Squash was also popular just because of two individuals, Jansher Khan and Jehangir Khan, who managed to achieve so much for the country by themselves or without any support from the government, I think. It’s very unfortunate that as there has been no player on the tennis tours for the past 20 years’ odd years apart from me. I feel really very honored in a way and feel best as well and proud as well that I have been able to do so much for the country for the past 20 years and trying to keep my flag high on the tennis tour anywhere I go. One of the reasons I think is because the government has never done anything to promote this game in Pakistan. I think there is a lot of talent but still, in past 70 years there have not been any public courts, this has not been introduced at the grass root level as well. Media, I would say never promoted this game in the past, I have always tried to be a door opener and always tried to get more and more younger lot start playing the game but again the individual effort is not enough. You got to introduce it to the grass root level otherwise it won’t get popular

Q.Is Tennis a rich man’s game in Pakistan? You are from a privileged background and had access to modern clubs where Tennis facility was available?
A.Unfortunately yes, tennis is a rich man’s sports in our country though it’s not supposed to be like that. I think the government and the federation need to take up especially if the kids are doing well, they should be sponsoring them with the right equipment and facilities with the balls and the racquets that how it happens everywhere else in the world. Our corporate sector doesn’t get involved in tennis so much. I think nowadays it’s on cricket which is sad because there are a lot of athletes across Pakistan who are trying their level best for the honors for the country and have a lot of potential but its only cricket always taking the limelight which is very unfortunate. I hope these things change and the sponsors equip the children with potential willing to bring honors for their country and making it proud also

Q.Has Pakistan Tennis Federation sponsoring you since the beginning of your career?
A. It’s very funny that you are asking me that whether PTF has ever sponsored me or is still sponsoring me, unfortunately, they have never sponsored me for tours and anything. I think the only tour I remember sponsored by PTF was the first ever international tournament I played when I was 16 years old and since then they have not sponsored a single trip of me. The only money they pay me is whenever I play DAVIS CUP which too is meager as compared to the international standard apart from that they never sponsored me, never.

Q. The only access to Tennis courts in Pakistan are in cantonments or in elite society, how can you bring this game’s awareness to lower and middle-class people? Just a racket costs a lot than a bat
A. 4.You’are definitely correct about this, we don’t have any public courts and most of the time its private clubs and the memberships are not an easy one to afford, that’s also one of the reasons that tennis is not excelling the way it should be, despite the fact we have all the talent.  A lot of the kids I see on the tennis courts they also have a lot of potentials. Unfortunately, we just have only one Tennis center in Islamabad but that too is not properly maintained. We should have tennis centers in major cities of the country. I hope to see tennis centers in the other parts of the country so that the younger kids get chance to show their potential

Q.You ‘ve played Australian open, French open, US open and Wimbledon.Which do you like playing the most? Is it Wimbledon because of its prestige?

A. By far Wimbledon is my most favorite tournament, the reason being I am from Lahore and 80% of courts in Lahore are grass courts. I grew up on grass courts as well. At those time when I started playing tennis at the age of 13,14, PTV only uses to show Wimbledon Finals and Semi Finals. So, I grew up watching Stefan Edberg and Borris Becker playing on the grass courts at the Wimbledon. Obviously, the prestige, the history and the heritage of Wimbledon, would make me rate it one of the most favorite tournament

Q.Co-ordination plays the big part in a double’s game.How do you practice when you are off season as you always had a foreign partner?
A.Definitely co-ordination and communication is the key to successful team or partnership. It’s very tough for me to co-ordinate with them when I am in Pakistan as we don’t have any Pakistani player playing on the tours which would have helped me a lot. Normally, what I do is, I go few weeks before the tournament and try to practice as much as I can with my partners. I spent most of the time away anyway. Now that I have been doing this for the double for the last 6 -7 years and I have gotten used to it. Mostly that’s how you do, you communicate with your partners on the phone as well and obviously on the tours as well. Most of the time we have had the same the coach, we could work on ourselves individually and as a team as well.

Q.You are the only non-cricketing sports player to sign a contract with PEPSI and too was just for a year, what’s the reason company don’t sponsor tennis players? You’ve got boots from Lotto
A.Yeah, feel very fortunate and lucky that a company like Pepsi sponsored me for a whole year. I am very thankful to them, definitely, it helped me a lot and hope we could work in the future as well. It’s not that the corporations are not sponsoring only tennis players, they don’t sponsor any other players except cricketers. I hope this changes as this is the reason I believe others sports are not getting popular. There are a lot of deserving athletes which the corporations should trust.

Q. You are over-age as per the sportsmen’s age, but you have kept yourself fit, what’s the secret?
A.I would definitely say one of the reasons that I am still playing at the top of the game is my discipline, dedication, and motivation. There is no one in Pakistan who can outwork me or out train me. I have this passion for the game, I feel like I have this responsibility towards this sports and to the country. My work isn’t done yet, I still have a lot of goals to achieve in the tennis world and this keeps driving me to work harder and harder. Motivates me to wake up early as well every day to do my workout and eat healthily and sleep healthy. I believe in capabilities and abilities that are the reason I have been able to pursue this long career and still have few years left, Alhamdulillah

Q. Is there any Tennis academy where one can learn tennis? An affordable one? And do you plan to make one?
A.I definitely do plan to start a tennis center or a tennis academy. I have been asking Punjab Government and the Pakistani government for some plan but unfortunately I have not been able to get one but inshAllah I will keep trying. Would try to have a center somewhere along the road with rightful kids and the talented kids and will teach them whatever have learned throughout my career so that there could be more “Aisam Ul Haqs” for the country and make a name for their families and the country

Q.You paired with an ISRAELI player and I remember you had to face some issues, do you believe religion/politics should be kept out of sports? And if am not wrong the player was a Muslim I guess “Amir Hadad”
A.I truly do believe that we should not mix politics, culture, and religion with sports and that’s the beauty of sports, it brings all the cultures, religions and people from different race together. That’s what sport teaches us and this what I have learned from playing tennis.I stood by my decision at that time in 2002 when I played with an Israeli tennis player, I did get a lot of bad names back home and the sports federation and Tennis authorities announced to ban me from playing or representing my country  But by the grace of Allah Almighty, the international tennis community stood by my side at that time and I think I feel very proud that I took that step, now people do realize and understand my decision that I was trying to bring honors to my country and Aamir was trying was to help me to get more honors for my country as well. Then I played with Rohan Bopanna, we had a very successful relationship and partnership and because of that, I got two Arthur Ashe Humanitarian awards from the ATP. I feel very proud and lucky, obviously, I am blessed that I am the only Muslim and Pakistani  Tennis player to be award this award twice. This is was the highlight of my career as well

Q.I visited PTA’s website yesterday, there were no such things as annual reports or the declaration of funds? Are you paid according to the international standard?
A. Yeah, Its pretty sad for me as well, I was also initiated to the PTF to have a proper website where the tennis fans or the tennis community could follow what we are doing, what tennis players are doing, what the federation is doing. 
PTF never paid me, the only time I get paid is when I play DAVIS CUP and too no way near the international standard.Money has never been my driving force, I play for my honor and country’s pride. Tennis federation should It to serious consideration, if they want to get more players getting involve in Tennis, they need to meet the international standards and pay them to the international standard as well.

Rohail Amjad: Thank you so much for talking to me Adam , wishing you all the success in this world.Keep making us proud..Stay blessed and Allah Hafiz
Aisam ul Haq: Thanks for having me on the show, take care and stay safe .Allah Hafiz

About Interview Scripted by Rohail Amjad

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