Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Fans pack the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Day 1 of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Rama, you know that Sania Mirza decided to draw curtains on her tennis career. Where do you think the next Sania Mirza from India is going to come from?
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN: Firstly, I want to congratulate Sania for an amazing career.
On your question, I honestly feel it is possible because there’s a lot of kids coming up playing. Definitely there’s no secret to it, it’s all about hard work, dedication and the will to do well in the big stages.
I’m really sure there will be many more kids coming up.
Q. Where do you see a spark of genius?
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN: There are some kids in Chennai, women’s players. Obviously Karman is playing well, Ankita is playing well. They’re all working hard. I know everyone says they’re not there. They’re very close, they’re all close to 200. The difference is a matter of few points, a few weeks here and there. If it clicks, it goes. We all know that.
I honestly feel they can do it, be the next Sania.
Q. Congratulations on your win today.
AISAM-UL-HAQ QURESHI: We lost.
Q. What do you think you learned together? Are you called the Indo-Pak Express II?
AISAM-UL-HAQ QURESHI: Not yet. This is only the second time we’re playing together. I’ve known Rama for a long time. We were in Melbourne, I asked him if he had somebody for Dubai Open. It’s close to home, one of my favorite tournaments. I have had good results here in the past. I made finals. I won it with an Indian here, with Bopanna, in 2014.
We just applied for it. Salah has been very kind, Salah Tahlak. He gave us a positive response in Australia. I think he knows him pretty well, as well.
Super happy that we got the wild card. Really appreciate it. Unfortunately lost a very close match here, but good to be competing with him. Hopefully I can get to play with him again this year and years to come, can show better results.
Q. Were you happy with the chemistry you shared?
AISAM-UL-HAQ QURESHI: Yeah, for me obviously I know him off the court really well. That helps. Communication, we’re talking to each on the court.
Our opponents changed an hour before the match. For three, four days we were preparing for somebody else. Then suddenly we find we have to play the lucky losers.
We both started a little bit slow. As the match progressed, we found our game and got better. Super tiebreaker is like Russian roulette: a few points go here and there. That makes a difference.
Unfortunately didn’t go our way, but happy to play in front of my family. My parents came, my wife was there. A lot of people from Pakistan, India. Always good to see they’re cheering for the same team.
Q. Politically sensitive, but one from Pakistan, another from India, a marriage, partnership of sport.
AISAM-UL-HAQ QURESHI: I’ve always stood for it. I’ll carry on standing for it. We got to keep sports away from politics. I really feel that. A lot of other sports in Pakistan and India get affected.
For me Indian players, not just Rama, Bopanna, all the other players also, they’re some of my closest friends on the tour. We share so many things together, food, culture, music, movies, all this kind of stuff. It just comes naturally.
Politically obviously there’s a lot of difference. I hope those boundaries can be taken away. Pakistan and Indians can play together a lot and against each other as well. Cricket, as well. Just in general.
I miss going to India. It’s not easy now to get visa. It takes a longer time to apply for the visas. Would love to go back to India and play. Always had great times there. Hope things can get better.
Q. Rama, what motivated you to take up this sport? You said there are some players that are knocking on the doors. Isn’t it important that the (indiscernible) should be there for tennis to grow at a faster pace?
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN: For your second question, I feel, yeah, the faster the better. But it’s not an easy path. It’s really tough to win at any level. You don’t know when it’s going to happen. When you least expect, things happen.
I feel if these kids, I mean, I know Ankita, Karman, all the women’s players. There are men’s players coming up. I feel dedication and work you put in.
Your question is right, there should be somebody like Leander or somebody, but it’s not easy to be a Leander or Mahesh, Bops, Qureshi who had an amazing career.
I think you have to build it up to that, keep going, believe in yourself. That’s the only way.
For your first question, I think it’s my dad who put me in tennis. Because of him, it’s why. I still enjoy a lot playing tennis. I still think I have lots more to learn. Just have to keep the same way, just like the juniors, have to keep on competing.
Q. What do you think is required to bridge the gap?
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN: Just to keep working hard. There’s no other secret. I don’t see anything else.
When I was 15, I was sent to Spain. I don’t regret those four years of my life because that gave me the toughness and the push and the desire. It made me feel able to compete with the Europeans.
If there was one thing I would want to say, send your kids early to Europe or U.S. just to see how tough it is to even have a chance at the top level.
Q. What’s the most fun part about playing doubles?
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN: I think it’s the vibe, the energy, the flowing of energy. You have to be there for each other even when you miss. You don’t have to doubt on your partner. You just have to keep going.
Matches change in a swing. I feel we should have won it today, but that’s how it goes. Hopefully in the times to come me and Aisam can play more. I really enjoy playing with him.
Q. Will we be seeing this pair in upcoming Grand Slams?
AISAM-UL-HAQ QURESHI: No, of course, but Grand Slams, a lot depends on the rankings.
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN: I need to improve on my ranking.
AISAM-UL-HAQ QURESHI: Him and myself as well. He did ask me for Australian Open, but unfortunately a day before I set up with somebody else. I could have easily played with him.
I think the Grand Slams and all the tournaments depend on the rankings.
The question, because I’m from the same part of the world, why it’s become so tough for the men and women and everything. You have to understand, like Rama said, it’s a very tough sport. It’s not like cricket that everybody can make it to the team, so many players are playing. It’s an individual sport, it’s really hard.
10 years ago, because the courts were a little bit quicker, that’s why you saw Mahesh, Leander, Bops, myself… It’s not as physical as it is right now. If you take any sport, when it comes to physicality, people from our part of the world tend to suffer. You can see from hockey. Pakistan, India both are suffering because it has become a totally physical sport. Before it was skill based.
Leander, Mahesh, myself, Sania as well, they all had a lot of talent and skill set which helped us on the faster courts, indoors, grass, all these kind of stuff. I think now the sport has changed a lot and it has become unbelievably physical.
I see the good part is, Sania, Rohan, all these guys have given young guys like Rama and all the other guys a pathway. I see more Indians on the tour now than I did 10 years ago. 10 years ago it was Bops, Leander, Mahesh and Sania. Now you see a lot of guys are playing doubles. I think there’s five or six. So many of the guys are in top 150 in doubles. They’ve started this thing I think.
Sania for me, she’s an icon of our sport from our region. I think she inspired girls not only in India but Pakistan as well.
I remember the first time she came to Pakistan in ’96 when she was 16 to play juniors. I’ve seen all her struggles. I have seen her parents and everyone struggled. She’s a role model for everyone. Wish her all the best.
I think these guys are following their footsteps. It’s harder now because the game has become so physical. I’m sure he’s going to get top hundred again and will carry the Indian flag like these guys do, as well.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
129358-1-1004 2023-02-28 17:10:00 GMT