Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and India’s Rohan Bopanna, trying to inspire peace between their homelands, were beaten by US top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan in Friday’s US Open men’s doubles final.
With United Nations ambassadors Hardeep Singh Puri of India and Abdullah Hussain Haroon of Pakistan sitting together cheering on the “Indo-Pak Express”, Qureshi and Bopanna were beaten by the top-ranked duo 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4).
The Bryans stretched their record ATP doubles title total to 65 with their third US Open crown and ninth Grand Slam title, two shy of the all-time record set by Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.
Improving to 9-for-9 in doubles finals this year, the Bryans made a record 17th Slam doubles finals appearance against the determined Grand Slam doubles final debutantes.
“This has been the best match we ever played,” Bob Bryan said. “These guys played incredible. We had to step up and match their energy.”
Qureshi drew a standing ovation at Arthur Ashe Stadium after the match when he moved to bridge the religion and culture gap between Americans and Pakistanis.
“I feel there’s a very wrong perception of Pakistan as a terrorist country,” Qureshi said. “We’re a peace-loving country and we want peace as much as you all.”
Bopanna and Qureshi had bested the Bryans for the first time last month at Washington in their most recent prior meeting, the only loss the Bryans have suffered in 20 matches since Wimbledon.
Bob Bryan became the first man in 28 years to win men’s and mixed doubles crowns in the same US Open after teaming with compatriot Liezel Huber to claim the mixed title on Thursday over Qureshi and Czech Kveta Peschke.
Qureshi, who dedicated his efforts to 21 million flood victims in Pakistan, apologized to his homeland for falling short twice in the finals.
“Sorry I went down two days in a row,” he said. “It was a close match. These guys just proved why they are number one in the world. The ‘Indo-Pak Express’ was running pretty great until we met these two guys.”
Bopanna, whose parents came from India to see him in the final, was pleased at the achievement of reaching the final.
“It has been a great run for us,” Bopanna said. “I’m really thankful Aisam is here playing with me.”
Qureshi and Bopanna, who won their first ATP doubles crown last February at Johannesburg, forced Mike Bryan to save a break point in the third game of the first set, which went to a tie-breaker.
Bopanna blasted an ace to equalize at 5-5 but sent a forehand wide to give the Bryans a set point and was wide with a forehand service return to surrender the opening set, the first set he and Qureshi had dropped in the tournament.
Mike Bryan saved two break points in the second game of the second set and held. The US duo grabbed a break chance on Bopanna in the next game, one saved by Qureshi with a forehand slam as he and Bopanna held.
Bopanna blasted a forehand volley winner to set up a break point on Mike Bryan in the sixth game but the right-handed of the brothers hit a service winner and the US duo fought back to hold to 3-3.
Bopanna sent a forehand volley wide in the 11th game for a break point, only the second mustered by the Bryans in the match, but the Indian saved it with a forehand smash as he and Qureshi held on the way to another tie-breaker.
The Bryans won four of the last five points in the tie-break, capturing the match after 95 minutes when Mike Bryan blasted an ace.
“This has been a dream. Right now this is the pinnacle,” Mike Bryan said, adding in a nod to Qureshi and Bopanna that “they are great guys. They are going to be playing in these for a long time to come.”