The Federer Express wasn't the only train rambling its way to a Paris title on Sunday. The Indo-Pak express made some noise too.
Yes, The BNP Paribas Masters most certainly was about Roger Federer's 18th masters title -- his first in the city of light -- but Federer's eye-opening run to the Paris winner's circle wasn't the only feel-good story of the week. The Indo-Pak Express, the formidable doubles tandem comprised of Indian Rohan Bopanna and Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi, cruised to their first masters title yesterday when they defeated the French wildcard pairing of Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau.
The 6-2, 6-4 victory will most certainly bring more exposure to the Indo-Pak Express's peace-promoting project "Stop War, Start Tennis," and, even though the home crowd was rooting for a French triumph, most tennis fans would agree (even the French) that an Indo-Pak Express victory is never a bad thing.
In fact, Bopanna and Qureshi, who first brought their cause to the mainstream when they reached the 2010 US Open final, might be the hardest doubles team to root against in the history of the sport. Each is soft-spoken and good-natured, and collectively the pair is selfless in the pursuit of a higher purpose: raising awareness and calling for the end to a long, dark period in Indo-Pakistani relations.
Throw in their gentle air, Qureshi's clean toothpaste-commercial looks, and their willingness to sit down and talk about their respect for each other and their opponents, and you've got yourself a recipe for making the world a better place. And who isn't rooting for that?
Regardless of rooting interest, yesterday's win was a huge achievement for the pair, and -- even better -- for peace. Bopanna and Qureshi's cause is a noble one, and their commitment to steady improvement shows that they are aware of the fact that the better they play, the better chance they have of actually making a difference. It's a big task to be sure, erasing more than a half century of bitter acrimony between the nations, but the Indo-Pak express doesn't appear daunted at all by the magnitude of it.
While they are shining a spotlight on the silliness of the hostility and suspicion that divides the two nations, tennis fans are taking notice. As they make their way to London for their first appearance at the prestigious Barclays World Tour Finals, here's to hoping that they raise a lot more awareness for their cause, win or lose.
Click like on the "Stop War, Start Tennis" page to join the Indo-Pak Express in promoting peace through sport.
Other Notable Occurrences Last Week In Paris:
Isner Reaches Career-high Again:
A nice run by John Isner, especially his quarterfinal defeat of David Ferrer and his close call against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis. Isner rises six spots in the rankings with the effort, giving him consecutive top 20 year-end finishes. Is the 26-year-old poised to make a run at becoming the top-ranked American? If he can find ways to improve his rate of success in the return game, he'll do more than that -- he'll be a viable threat to contend for Slams, especially in New York, where the crowds will be behind him. It's a big if though...
Federer, Federer, Federer:
I'm noticing some frustration from Djokovic and Nadal supporters about the media making too much of Federer's recent revival. But wouldn't they want the same for their charge, if he'd endured his first year in many without a Slam, was the subject of so much "Roger is done" talk, and still -- as he seems to prove time and time again -- had plenty of game left?
Nole, Nole, Nole:
There are no questions about Djokovic's game heading into London. That said, health is a big concern, and if he pushes too hard to make one final grand statement in London next week, he may need more than one month to replenish. Cue the argument for a men's season that ends one week after the women's season here...
Well done Mardy Fish:
In all my haste last week I failed to give Mardy Fish his due for an incredible 2011. Fish is the only first-timer of the eight in the London field, and he's been grinding all year to reach this spot. Remember back in Australia, when Fish was so dejected after taking ill in Australia and losing in the 2nd round to Tommy Robredo? His presser was heartfelt afterwords, and he made it clear that he had no idea what was wrong with him or how he would rebound from there. Turns out he had a thyroid issue, and while he was dejected, Fish was unwilling to let it curtail all the progress he had made in the 2nd half of 2010 with the weight loss and the fitness regime.
He bounced back on American soil (semis in Miami), made the Wimbledon quarterfinals and took a set from Rafa, then proceeded to have the best summer of his career. Even when he lost a heartbreaker to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the 4th round of the US Open, Fish didn't stop battling. He made the semis if Tokyo to solidify his place in the race, and now, here he is, one of the elite eight in men's tennis, and a shining example of how hard work and dedication can change the course of a career, even when many thought it wasn't possible...