Bob and Mike Bryan, twin brothers from Camarillo, won their third U.S. Open doubles title and their ninth Grand Slam championship Friday, but it was the moment when Pakistani player Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi took the microphone inside a jampacked Arthur Ashe Stadium that brought the crowd to its feet and tears to Bob’s eyes.
“My parents are watching in Pakistan and I love you all,” Qureshi said. “I want to say something on behalf of all Pakistanis. It is the wrong perception that Pakistan is being a terrorist country. We are a loving, caring people and we want peace as much as you guys want it. May God love us all.”
The top-ranked Bryans beat Rohan Bopanna of India and Qureshi 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) but the match seemed almost secondary.
Bopanna and Qureshi have been nicknamed the Indo-Pak Express as a celebration of the partnership that is trying to promote peace between their two countries that have fought three wars since 1947. Lately they’ve also begun winning, and the support Friday was vociferous; the standing ovation after Qureshi spoke was, even in New York terms, monstrous.
Then, at the post-match news conference, the U.N. ambassador from Pakistan, Abdullah Haroon, stopped by and presented the Bryans with ceremonial shawls to thank them for having donated $5,000 to Pakistani flood relief.
The brothers were teary-eyed again and for a moment doubles held sway on the grandest stage in American tennis.
India’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh was also in attendance, just as he and Haroon had been in the semifinals, an occasion that Bopanna and Qureshi had found amazing.
It was unusual that Ashe Stadium was nearly full even at noon, when the match started.
“I could see a bunch of Indians and Pakistanis out there at 10:15 when we were warming up,” Bob Bryan said. “I was looking around and I’m like, ‘We’re not going to have this whole crowd on our side for sure.’”
He also said Qureshi’s statement to the crowd choked him up.
“I could see him,” Bob said. “He was quivering a little bit. He was very choked up. Just to give that message to everyone was very heartfelt. What they are doing is a lot more important than winning the U.S. Open.”
Added Mike, “A sport can bring people together. You know, these guys are going to be great for the game for a long time.”
The Bryans said they are planning two fundraisers in the next month to raise more money for Pakistan flood relief.
Later, Qureshi expanded on what he had told the crowd.
“Since Sept. 11, every time I come to the States or Western countries I feel people have the wrong impression of Pakistan as a terrorist nation.… We want peace in this world as much as Americans want and the rest of the world wants. We all are on the same side.”
Qureshi said he understands the reasons for sadness on 9/11 and that he accepts that it is when he comes to the U.S. that he has the most trouble with immigration checks.
“I don’t think anywhere else in the world I stay three hours in immigration after a 15-hour flight. But you just can’t judge the whole country because of some group trying to spoil the whole world.”