Amritraj, Qureshi capture the imagination

Indo-Pak duo triggers dAelirium, excitement ahead of clash with Bhupathi-Knowles

 
Prakash Amritraj (left) and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi have had the fans eating out of their hands at Wimbledon. AFPCourtesy of another epic five-set encounter, Indo-Pak duo Prakash Amritraj and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi set up a third-round tie against fourth seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles on Court 14 on Monday.

Cue scenes of delirium among the spectators on the outside court as drinks went flying and strangers hugged.

"Nobody cared about who was Pakistani and who was Indian," Qureshi, Pakistan's leading player, said. "They were all just supporting one team. It felt so good.

"This is the first time there were so many people from Pakistan watching me live. "Even my 18-month-old nephew was there though by the time it was finishing, he was sleeping," he grinned.

British youngsters, with barely any of their compatriots left to cheer, were so roused by the match that at the end, they were scrambling for autographs and yelling; "You're our favourite players now!"

They weren't the only ones caught up in the frenzy. So focused was the 25-year-old Amritraj at the conclusion that he forgot what happened at the end of the match.

"On all six match points, they put in a good first serve," he told Reuters, only to be corrected by Qureshi.

"No, the last one was a second serve. You hit a forehand down the line," the 29-year-old said, playfully punching his partner's arm.

Amritraj's father Vijay, twice a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 1973 and 1981, was courtside for the encounter and despite wearing a dark suit, the heat was not the only thing getting to him.

"He was pretty close to having a heart attack," his son joked, making Qureshi burst out laughing. "He was getting a little tight. He had one five-setter two days ago and another one today."

Vijay was just thankful his boy came out on top. "Stressful game to watch, but a wonderful ending," said the 55-year-old.

Though the likes of Court 11 are a mere stone's throw from the showpiece Centre and number one courts, those that get drawn on them are worlds apart from the top players.
The Indo-Pak duo had to get through two qualifying matches and, after overcoming 16th seeds Ross Hutchins and Stephen Huss in round one, are now the only qualifiers left in the draw. Yet Qureshi, ranked 85th in doubles, enjoys his lifestyle and the companionship among the less talked-about players.

Amritraj and Qureshi are familiar with Monday's opponent Bhupathi, and will need to be at their best to derail the 11-times Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles champion.

"He's a good player but we've played with each other so much. I think we have a really good shot," Amritraj said, backed up by Qureshi.

"We almost have nothing to lose. We can relax and they'll have all the pressure," the Pakistani added.

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