‘Indo-Pak Express’ to be back on Tour, albeit for just Mexico event as of now

New Delhi, 2 Mar: The much-popular Indo-Pak pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi will be back after six years when it competes at the Acapulco ATP 500 event but as of now it’s an one-off arrangement since their combined ranking won’t let them enter bigger tournaments together.
It will be first time that Bopanna and Aisam, known as ‘Indo-Pak Express’ will play together since they last competed at the ATP 250 event in Shenzen in 2014.
The 2010 season turned out be breakthrough for Bopanna and Aisam as they reached the US Open final together, losing to the legendary Bryan brothers.
Bopanna even became world number three in that phase, touching his career-high rank in 2010. Their pairing generated huge interest in both the countries given the rivalry between the Asian neighbours.
Since the 2012 was the Olympic year, Bopanna broke partnership with Aisam and chose to pair with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi for that season so that they could prepare for the London Games.
They rejoined forces in 2014 before parting ways again.
Now, both 40-year-old Bopanna and Aisam will be together again, albeit the arrangement as of now, is only for one tournament.
“Right now we are just getting together to play in Mexico. So far we have not spoken about future,” Aisam told PTI.
“Hopefully, it goes well and we can maybe play more tournaments in future as well.”
The 40-year-old Pakistani tennis icon said they were actually trying to enter the Dubai Duty Free Championships together but could not.
“We spent a lot of time together in Australia. We spoke about if we could get in Dubai. He was looking for a partner and I am also looking for a partner for the rest of the year. So we thought let’s team up for Dubai Open, unfortunately we did not get in. Our combined ranking was not good enough.
“But we got into Acapulco. I am super excited. Hopefully, we will play well together and hit it off. Maybe then we can decide and talk of playing few more tournaments together, but right it’s one off tournament.
“I don’t know what his plans are for 2021, if he is committed to play with someone or not. We will see how things go.”
Aisam is ranked 49 and Bopanna is 40. With a combined ranking of 89, getting to play bigger tournaments is virtually impossible.
Considering that it’s an Olympic year, Bopanna needs to up his ranking to qualify for the Tokyo Games and for that to happen he needs to get some big results in the coming months.
The Indian acknowledged that playing consistently with Aisam is what he wishes so much but it won’t be possible unless they improve their rankings.
“With combined ranking of 89, we are barely entering ATP 500 events. Who knows the future but the aim right now is to play bigger tournaments to qualify for the Tokyo.
“I share excellent camaraderie with Aisam and this is what you need in the COVID times when you are in bubble.
“You are spending day in and day out with that person but I need to get my rankings up. For that I need a top-20 player as a partner, so that I can enter bigger tournament. So, this is one-off. But if we do well, we would love to play together
“In 2014, we parted ways only because we were not getting into bigger tournaments.”
Bopanna said not getting wild card for the Dubai event has changed his plans.
I have never been to Acapulco, I need to figure out, how I reach there. There are lot of restrictions due to COVID and I will be flying through 2-3 countries to get there. My coach is also in Dubai. ”
Bopanna also shared why he is not getting a steady partner for 2021.
“The cut offs are up and down always and the on-site signings have stopped, you have to do it as advance sign-in. It’s difficult to find a steady partner in these times. Even after I play in Acapulco, I don’t know who I will play with in Miami.”
Bopanna and Aisam had begun the ‘Stop War, Start Tennis’ campaign to spread the peace message.
They wore T-shirts that had slogan ‘Stop War Start Tennis’ printed and were acknowledged for the effort, winning the prestigious ‘Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year’ award. (PTI)