These days just about the only Muslim tennis player that achieves headlines is the great Sania Mirza from India. But Pakistan boasts the second most noteworthy Muslim among active professional players in the world today. Meet Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi: a man with a long first name, a strong first serve, and yet a higher purpose both on and off the tennis court.
Aisam was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. He clearly has tennis in his genes, as his mother, Nausheen Ihtisham, was a 10-time national champion, and his maternal grandfather, Kwaja Iftikhar, was the All-India tennis champion before India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947. Aisam began playing at the age of 14, and by 16 he was the number one junior tennis player in Pakistan. His junior career included winning the Pakistani International Junior Championships as well as numerous other impressive victories including one over current world top ten player Andy Roddick. Finally, by 1998, at the age of 18, Aisam had achieved a world number 7 junior ranking, the highest ever world junior ranking for a Pakistani, and he was ready to turn professional.
Aisam at one point reached as high as 125 in the ATP world menâ€™s singles rankings. But, his calling card quickly became the doubles game. By 2007 he finally reached his first ATP doubles final with partner Rohan Bopanna from India, but they lost in the finals of that tournament in Mumbai. They reached another final the next year, losing in the finals of a tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. Notably, in November of 2009, Qureshi teamed with American James Cerretani to defeat world number one singles player Roger Federer and his partner at a tournament in Federerâ€™s home town of Basel, Switzerland. But a doubles title did not arrive until this year, when Qureshi, once again paired with Bopanna, broke through and won the South Africa Tennis Open in February. They have reached two more finals since then, so the future appears to be bright for this Subcontinental duo.
Aisam has also represented his country quite well, having captained the Pakistani Davis Cup team. He has officially won the most Davis cup singles and doubles matches in Pakistanâ€™s history.
He first entered the worldâ€™s consciousness in 2002 when he paired up, in controversial fashion, with Israeli Amir Hadad. Despite pressure from both the Pakistani and Israel governments to break up, the two went on to reach the third round of Wimbledon and the second round of the U.S. Open that year. That experience earned them the Arthur Ashe Humanitarians of the Year Award. He has also become a member of the â€˜Champions for Peaceâ€™ club, a group of famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sports. Qureshi is now up to number 46 in the world doubles rankings, but he should be number 1 in the hearts of Muslims everywhere.