Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi-1677695805382
Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi with Shaikh Hasher Al Maktoum after winning the 2014 doubles title in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: India’s Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, have been phenomenally successful in doubles tennis world over the last couple of decades. Doubles specialist Qureshi feels it will be difficult for the current generation to reproduce that Asian stars’ feat unless the players become physically strong.

“Tennis is a very tough sport, not like cricket with so many players playing. It’s really hard now. Ten years ago, when the courts were a bit quicker, you saw Mahesh, Leander, Bops [Rohan Bopanna] and myself... It was not as physical as it is right now. If you take any sport, when it comes to physicality, people from our part of the world tend to suffer,” said the 42-year-old US Open finalist in men’s and mixed doubles.

Skill-based game

“Before it was skill based. Leander, Mahesh, Sania and myself all had a lot of talent and skill set, which helped us on the faster courts, indoors and grass. Now the sport has changed a lot and it has become unbelievably physical.”

Qureshi and Bopanna, famously known as the Indo-Pak Express, had reached the US Open final and the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2010. The duo, who have five ATP titles together, broke into the top-10 in 2011. They also came together in 2014 to clinch the Dubai title.

Qureshi, who partnered another Indian Ramkumar Ramanathan, could not have a similar success story and the new pairing lost Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-4, 3-6, 10-5 in the first round in Dubai on Tuesday.

With Sania ending her career in Dubai last week, the top of the Indian tennis wears an empty look and the Chennai-born Ramanathan feels there is still enough talent in India and is confident of filling the void.

Future talents

“There are some good talents in Chennai. Karman [Kaul Thandi] and Ankita [Raina] are playing well. They’re all working hard and they’re very close to 200. The difference is a matter of few points, a few weeks. If it clicks, I honestly feel they can do it and be the next Sania,” said the 28-year-old Ramanathan.

Qureshi, who hailed Sania as a role model for girls in India and Pakistan, also was confident of India finding more talents to carry the country’s flag.

“Now you see at least five or six playing doubles and are in top 150. I think these guys are following the foosteps of Leander, Mahesh and Sania. It’s harder now because the game has become so physical. I’m sure he [Ramanathan] is going to get top hundred again and will carry the Indian flag like as well,” Qureshi concluded.