In a battle of former partners, Rohan Bopanna, pairing up with Mahesh Bhupathi, prevailed.
Aisamul Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer were sent crashing out of the Madrid Open with a 7-6, 7-6 loss in the quarter-finals against the Indian pair, less than 24 hours after the Pakistan-Dutch pair had sent the top-seeds Mike and Bob Bryans packing.
Aisam and Bopanna parted ways end of last year and this was the duo’s first meeting on court as Aisam and Rojer looked favourites after their Estoril Open triumph on Sunday was complemented by the second-round upset.
However, the pair failed to maintain its form with Aisam terming the tie-breaks the trickiest parts of the match.
“It’s the tie-break that sealed our fate,” Aisam told The Express Tribune. “Rojer and I are clicking and we’ve been playing well since last week. However, the tie-breaks come back to haunt us. Bopanna and Bhupathi played extremely well. I’m not bitter because we chased them right till the end.”
According to Aisam, it was emotional for him to play against Bopanna as a decade-long friendship turned into rivalry yesterday.
“It’s something very personal and yet something that sort of gave both of us an edge. I know his game very well and he knows mine. After a while, it became a game of nerves. But my priority was to win, of course. I believe we’ll peak during the Rome Masters next week. Beating the Bryan brothers was a fluke. It was due to hard work.”
Aisam has to list in the top-10 by the end of the French Open to be eligible for the London Olympics. He started the year in eighth but fell to 14th. However, the Estoril Open triumph helped him get up to 13th.
Azarenka fights back for semis
Meanwhile, women’s top-seed Victoria Azarenka saw off China’s Li Na with a battling 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win to reach the semi-finals.
Ninth-seed Serena Williams won another battle of former number one players as she defeated second-seed Maria Sharapova, the Stuttgart champion, 6-1, 6-3 with 11 aces, 28 winners and five breaks of serve in 80 minutes.
Williams said that while the blue clay courts remain problematic, the issue was not enough to make her consider skipping the event as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have threatened to do.
“This is a tough surface and it’s extremely slippery,” she said. “But Djokovic is still in the event and so is Roger Federer. If I’m not here next year, it won’t be because of the clay. I don’t think there’s been any improvement in the courts over the week, but every clay court is different. This is not the best court”
Agnieszka Radwanska beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4. (With additional input from AFP)
“This is a tough surface and it’s extremely slippery. I don’t think there’s been any improvement in the courts over the week, but every clay court is different. This is not the best court – definitely not what they play like at Roland Garros.”
“I see no reason to talk about the courts until after the event. These are the conditions we have to deal with. But Li Na played unbelievable in the first set. I knew I had to do something. I don’t know if it was confidence or self-belief or what.”
“I am really happy with my tennis, with my body and I am feeling really confident on clay. I don’t feel any pain so it’s a good sign for the next tournament and I think I’m getting better tournament by tournament.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.