Roger Federer is a colossus of the sporting world. He has won 20 Grand Slams, the most in history for a male player, and has held the World No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record total of 310 weeks. But he has left his mark on the annals of tennis history in ways other than stats too.
Yesterday, Pakistan's top player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi appeared on the podcast "Control the Controllables" with Dan Kiernan, and he talked at length about a variety of topics - including the memories he has of playing Roger Federer.
I beat Roger Federer yet no one knew my name back home: Qureshi
About a few weeks ago, Roger Federer topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-paid athletes for the first time in his career, with earnings of $106.3 million. This elusive list saw him rank ahead of football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi.
Roger Federer is a global icon, to say the least. But not many know that he once came second best to Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.
The Pakistani recalled that meeting during the podcast, but also rued how it failed to bump up his popularity in his home country.
"In 2007, I qualified for the main draw of Wimbledon men's singles, where I won the first round. I was the first player from Pakistan in 50 years to have qualified for a Grand Slam. In 2009, I ended up beating Roger Federer in doubles in Basel. And I thought, this was a big thing to do in tennis and I would be recognized back home. But that wasn't the case," Qureshi said.
Partnering with Jamie Cerratani, Qureshi had defeated Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli in straight sets at the Swiss Indoors. At the time, Qureshi had hailed the victory over Roger Federer as the greatest achievement of his career.
I want to motivate the kids in my country like Roger Federer did: Qureshi
When Qureshi was asked how he dealt with the lack of recognition for tennis in Pakistan, he replied, "The pressure was always there for me to achieve and to be recognized. I wanted to play tennis, to promote tennis and to be an icon back in Pakistan."
Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi has enjoyed a respectable career as a tennis player, and is currently Pakistan's top-ranked player. The Pakistani's highest singles ranking was World No. 125, but most of his significant career achievements are in doubles.
Qureshi partnered Indian tennis ace Rohan Bopanna to reach the men's doubles final of 2010 US Open. The duo were dubbed the "Indo-Pak Express", and they notched up a slew of memorable wins during their partnership.
Speaking on being a role model in Pakistan, Qureshi asserted that his "goal was to be recognized in my country as a tennis player." However, he never quite managed to capture the imagination of his fellow countrymen until that breakthrough run with Bopanna in New York.
"When I made USO 2010 finals, I was finally recognized not only in the world of tennis, but Pakistan as well!" Qureshi said. "People know the likes of Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Jahangir Khan. I wanted my name to come with them when people talked about tennis."
I have responsibility to be a role model in my country, to be a door opener. I don't see myself like Roger Federer in Switzerland, but I want to motivate the kids in my country to make a career out of tennis, just like Federer did," he added.Published 23 Jun 2020, 22:21 IST