Israeli-Pakistani pair might play again
By Curry Kirkpatrick
ESPN The Magazine
WIMBLEDON, England -- Notes from a rainy -- well, until the sun finally came out just before it was too late -- Monday at Wimbledon:
Brothers in non-arms
You can also hope they last somewhat longer but don't wager the family tennis racquets on it. Especially if that other international fun couple, Yassir and Ariel, get wind of the news that Qureshi -- a Muslim ranked 270 in the world and playing out of Lahore, Pakistan -- played the men's doubles (or was it the mixed men's doubs) with Amir Hadad -- a Jew ranked 187, from Ramla, Israel. Played and won two matches in the main draw, the second after being four match points down. Played until they lost to the seventh-seeded team of Martin Damm and Cyril Suk, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 on Monday. Played even as the Pakistan Sport Board (PSB) threatened to impose a ban on Qureshi and throw him out of the country's federation unless he ditched his buddy as his doubles partner.
"That's their own loss. If they want to stay in Group II or lower levels, fine," said the No. 1 ranked Pakistani, who is the first player from his nation ever to make the third round of a Grand Slam event. "I (would) stay for them and play for them. (But) if I believe I could do well with Amir in the big events, Grand Slams, I'll stay and play with him. Why not?"
Well, because the criticism at home was mounting? "The bloodshed in the Middle East means his pairing with an Israeli is wrong," said Saeed Hai, a former Pakistan champion.
But Hadad was getting nothing but positive reaction from Israel. "I saw on the Internet, all the Web sites. A few reporters called me and they all say in a positive way that we can play together, do well in this pairing."
And pair they did when Qureshi, 22, who's known Hadad, 24, for three years while they played the challengers' circuit, asked his friend during Wimbledon qualifying if they might team up. "When we started we never thought this was going to become such a big thing," Qureshi said. "Actually, we're not here to change anything. Politicians and governments do that. We're just here to play the game and enjoy it."
Yeah, well, that's what Bono said -- before he went and got elected to Congress from Palm Springs. And isn't that Jolie who has been tearing across the globe helping save all the orphans for UNICEF?
"Like Aisam says, we came to play tennis," Hadad avowed. "There are some people who maybe want to make headlines, say bad things about this. But I see it as only a positive that two guys from different nationalities can play together. We are good friends and I think we're going to keep playing together in the future. We're here to improve our ranking, to make some money."
(As was evident by his post-match haberdashery, which included a ballcap with a Mercedes Benz logo. "Hopefully, now they're going to see me and give me a car," the Israeli said laughing.)
The pair was asked if they go out to dinner. Hadad said no. They were asked, as friends, what they talk about, sex? Qureshi said no. "He's (Hadad) got his girlfriend here." They were asked if sport was more important to them than religion.
"Depends," Qureshi said. "For me it's very tough to be as religious as I want to be. Tough to pray five times a day. You have to find a happy medium between the religion and sport.
"Ramadan? When I'm away from home, it's very tough for me," Qureshi said. "When I get home, I try to do that. But my parents don't want me to (fast) because it's a very big weight problem. They don't want me to lose a lot of weight."
As for Hadad: "I try as much as I can to keep my religion, to eat kosher food. But it's very tough when you travel all over the world. You have different food. When you have matches, you have to eat properly before the matches. I mean, I don't pray at all. But I practice a lot."
The team says they have already talked about playing together -- political repercussions be damned -- at the U.S. Open.
"As we said, we are not playing tennis to change anything..." Qureshi said.
"It doesn't matter where we (come) from," Hadad said. "We are tennis players, improving our ranking. But if something else good can come out of all this, it's even better."
England, (Un-fair?) England
Henman's virtually unknown opponent, the 23-year old Michel Kratochvil from Bern, Switzerland -- who had scratched just one game off Henman in their only previous meeting -- served for the first set and was up a service break in both the fourth and fifth sets before losing all three and collapsing at the end, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a contest interrupted by rain for nearly two hours.
"I don't know how I got through this," said a relieved Henman who was ahead in the third set 4-1 when the rains came. "The mediocre pace" of the grass, Henman said, helped Kratochvil -- who swept those last five games of the set. But a stomach ailment that the Brit suffered during the delay might have meant more. Henman got on-court attention from the trainer, including smelling salts. But it was Kratochvil's serve that kept stinking to the heavens; the Swiss double-faulted 17 times in the four-hour-plus match. "I had to win, didn't I," Henman said.
That could have been a mantra for Rusedski, as well, who held serve in the second game of his fourth set against Belgium's immensely talented Xavier Malisse only because he double-hit a block-back volley of a ball the X-Man rifled directly at him. Double hits are legal now -- if they are ruled to be unintentional. But Rusedski looked like he made a second lunge as the ball skipped off his frame. When he hit it that second time, the ball bounced a clear winner into Malisse's court and Rusedski grinned -- rather than call the violation on himself.
The X-Man protested to the chair umpire to little avail. But then the Belgian, 21, whose seed of 27 is four places below Rusedski, simply kept blasting his monster forehand into every nook and cranny and deadlocked the fray at 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6. That's when play was called on account of "bad light" just before 9 p.m., Hill-Ridge standard time.
They'll finish the thing on Tuesday. But, as is becoming quite obvious whenever Henman and Rusedski trod the lawns, the X-factor facing the X-Man will be a huge home-court disadvantage and some serious home-cookin' officiating.
Retro russet -- hold the fries
GOALLLLL! GIRL! (Or an excuse to stay on Anna watch)
Rubin -- who was dropped in the fourth round Monday by Serena Williams, 6-3, 6-3 -- has no such problems following any of her doubles matches. Her partner is Anna Kournikova.
Drooling of which, for all you Annamaniacs, Her Kourness is still very much alive and prancing. If she and Rubin win their next match they would probably face the defending womens' champions, Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs, in the quarterfinals. In mixed doubles Anna and Whoever (if you really care, it's Jonas Bjorkman) will play Todd Woodbridge and somebody named Martina Navratilova.
At least something's right in the tennis world.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
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