It may have been the Bryan brothers that walked away with the hardware as champions, but it was the “Indo-Pak Express” that walked away with the hearts of the 23,000-plus spectators assembled at Arthur Ashe Stadium and the millions more watching on television. A day after losing to Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber in the mixed doubles final, Qureshi fell maddeningly short once again. Neither side yielded a service break, and just five points were the difference in the end — the 7-4 and 7-5 tiebreaks won at the end of each set by the Bryans.
After such a tight match went against them, Bopanna and Qureshi could easily have been bitter about the outcome and their own misfortune. But that is hardly their style.
2010 U.S. OPEN BRACKETS
Instead, the men who turned their sporadic doubles partnership over the previous seven years into a message for peace across their long-disputed common border: Stop War, Start Tennis their rallying cry. The magnanimous speech delivered by Pakistan’s greatest racqueteer in the wake of their runner-up performance was the greatest display of the day, far more inspiring than even the high level of play exhibited by this quartet.
After being handed a microphone to speak to the capacity crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Qureshi poignantly stated, “There’s a bad perception that Pakistan is a terrorist nation. We’re a friendly, loving, caring people. We want peace as much as you guys. May god bless us all. For me, you have to understand there are extremists in every religion. But those small groups or activists shouldn’t justify the thinking that everyone is like them. Above all, everybody wants peace. Not everybody is an extremist. That’s my message and hopefully everyone can understand that.”
I won’t go into politics too much, but it is hard to argue with the logic of a man who has experienced the pain of seeing his nation misunderstood and marginalized thanks to the actions of a few. But for a few rallies turning the other way, we might’ve seen Qureshi and Bopanna hoisting the trophy as champs. Merely reaching this point to convey a message bigger than themselves, though, makes the Indian and the Pakistani true champions of humanity…
We also saw the women settle their finalists for the Super Saturday singles championship traditionally sandwiched between the men’s semifinals. The early contest pitted top seed Caroline Wozniacki against #7 Vera Zvonareva. Wozniacki was the losing finalist to Kim Clijsters a year ago in Flushing Meadows; Zvonareva surprised many earlier this summer with her run to the Wimbledon final. One or the other would get her second chance for that elusive first Grand Slam title.
It was an especially windy day in Queens, and it was apparent from the start that the Russian was far less affected in the conditions than was her Danish counterpart. Wozniacki was nowhere near the level she’d played at to reach the semifinals. Coming into the tournament all the questions surrounding the Dane centered on how deserving she was of a top seed.
She had quieted most of them with her largely mistake-free play during the first five rounds. And the inability to solve either her opponent or the quirky climate of Arthur Ashe Stadium shouldn’t be held too much against her — though some factions surely will. Zvonareva simply figured out the best way to play the court today, got the jump on her foe and held it all the way to the 6-4 6-3 finish.
Now Zvonareva will get her chance to do what Wozniacki could not do last year — defeat Kim Clijsters for the U.S. Open title. The defending champ earned her return trip to the final against fellow former winner Venus Williams, the veterans playing out a three-set thriller. With her sister on the sideline, Venus was bidding to win her third U.S. Open title nine years after her most recent championship at the USTA National Tennis Center. But after playing superbly to take the opening set 6-4, Venus’ game deserted her.
The elder Williams sister would see her bid end one match short after a performance marred by fifty unforced errors and a marked inability to close out her opponent. To Clijsters’ credit, though, the Belgian dug deep in wind just as bad as during the earlier match and clawed her way back. She proved that her return to the sport and instant success last summer were hardly flukes.
There’s just one match left for the women, and both Zvonareva and Clijsters have proven themselves amongst the top five players in the world — regardless of which one ultimately hoists the U.S. Open trophy…
We also discovered who would face off against Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova in the women’s doubles semifinal between #2 Liezel Huber (already the mixed doubles champ with Bob Bryan) and Nadia Petrova and #7 Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng. One 6-3 6-2 match later, Huber and Petrova proved that they are still as formidable as ever.
We may have missed the opportunity to see another improbable pairing of players from nations with reciprocal animosities in a doubles final when Chan (Taiwanese) and Zheng (Chinese) were ousted by the #2 seeds, but their run to the final four was spectacular nonetheless. They couldn’t manage the pace and variety that Huber and Petrova brought to the court. But that’s hardly something that many can do. Their story was largely overshadowed by Qureshi and Bopanna on the men’s side, but the two ladies of opposite nationalities and one greater common homeland were every bit as inspiring.
Now the question becomes whether Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova have a legitimate chance to upset the potent pairing staring them down from the opposite side of the net. It is certainly possible, especially the way they’ve been playing throughout the tournament. It is exactly the final I predicted before the tournament started, and I am not about to waver from my pick. King and Shvedova are perhaps the only team in this draw that truly have the game to match these juggernauts. Whoever prevails, it’s sure to be a hell of a match…