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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-15-2002, 10:18 PM Thread Starter
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Talking Controversy in the Doubles Draw!

Well, perhaps not controversy, but something quite interesting.

from the New York Times

Doubles Team May Not Play in Open

When Amir Hadad of Israel and Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan turned into a symbol of international détente as a doubles team at Wimbledon, they reveled in the attention that swirled around them. But neither is sure if they will team up for a repeat performance at the United States Open.

Hadad and Qureshi played in the G.H.I. Bronx Tennis Classic at Crotona Park this week, the first time they have played in the same tournament or seen each other since Wimbledon. They also both lost in the Bronx tournament in the first round of singles and, playing with other partners, in doubles.

When they advanced to the third round at Wimbledon, it was the best showing of their careers. And although both say they remain the warmest of friends and will play together in future tournaments, they seem to differ on whether they should play together at the Open.

Qureshi said that if they did not, it would be because their combined doubles ranking of 219 would not get them in the main draw. He seemed reluctant to ask for a wild-card entry, although Hadad said he was sure they would get one if they asked. Qureshi seemed a bit wary of the reception they would receive in New York, mindful of its large Jewish population, but Hadad said he believed they would be as warmly received as they were in England.

"I don't want to push him; I don't know if he has problems," Hadad said yesterday after his doubles loss with Grant Silcock of Australia. "It's up to him. I hope we play together. It was very good for us."

They were, for a few days, the best story in tennis. In a small way, they were patching over a cultural and religious chasm. Hadad, 24 and Jewish, had little in common with Qureshi, 22 and Muslim, except their sport.

But that was enough, and they had become friends. They teamed up at Wimbledon for lack of other partners. Because they had played only in total obscurity, they figured no one would notice their unusual pairing. Their relationship was never about religion or politics. It was about tennis.

But a few reporters showed up at their first match and many more went to their second. By their third match, their story was being beamed around the world.

"Next thing we know, we are on CNN, BBC, ESPN," Qureshi said. "Everyone I knew called me. It was nice to be popular a little bit."

Neither shied away from the attention, although Qureshi endured an immediate backlash. The Pakistani tennis federation threatened to ban him from Davis Cup play if he continued playing with Hadad. Qureshi defiantly refused to give in.

He says his federation has come around since then. Not only did the Pakistani officials apologize to Qureshi, but they have also extended a Davis Cup invitation. Qureshi says this happened after the International Tennis Federation said it would ban Pakistan from the Davis Cup if it followed through on its threat to Qureshi.

"It's good now," he said. "We are all happy."

Qureshi said he had not been home to Pakistan since Wimbledon--he trains in the Netherlands--but his parents had sent him copies of newspaper articles from their country. They were all positive, he said. He said he was not worried about returning home after the Open.

Hadad, too, has enjoyed the reaction, saving many of the bigger articles written about them. He said the Israeli news media were slow to cover the story, running nothing more than his results at Wimbledon. Only after he returned home did anyone write or broadcast more.

"They didn't even pay attention," he said. "When an Israeli reporter called me, I said: `I think you are slipping. I am on CNN and the BBC.' "

Since then, though, Hadad said, the reaction from home has been all positive. He is sure it would be the same in New York.

"If we don't play in the Open, it would be a shame," he said. "We are still friends, but playing together is good for us."


The heat took its toll yesterday when VALENTINA SASSI of Italy fell ill with what United States Tennis Association officials called heat stress. Sassi won a 3-hour-36-minute singles match against her doubles partner, BAHIA MOUHTASSINE of Morocco, 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7), as the temperature hit 102 degrees and the heat index reached 112. Sassi suffered severe cramping afterward and was taken by ambulance to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx so she could receive intravenous fluids. She was later released. DONNA PALLULAT, the U.S.T.A. women's trainer, said Sassi never lost consciousness but could not walk because of the cramping. BUNNY WILLIAMS, a U.S.T.A. official, said the heat index was not out of the ordinary for summer events. The rule for days with a heat index more than 90 is to give players a 10-minute break between the second and third sets. Both Sassi and Mouhtassine took cold showers during their break. Trainers are not authorized to stop a match or demand that a player not be allowed to play. "All we can do is stand by and hope they are O.K.," Pallulat said.

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