'We would have been rooting for them'
They lost their maiden Grand Slam final but the Indo-Pakistani team of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi scored an emotional winner by leaving even their opponents "choked" with their message of peace on the eve of the 9/11 terror attacks' ninth anniversary.
Bopanna and Qureshi, who managed to tug at heartstrings here with their message of 'Stop War and Start Tennis, lost 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4) to top-seeded American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan in the US Open men's doubles final on Friday.
Their message, however, had such emotional resonance that the Bryans said they would have been happy to root for their 16th seeded rivals had it not been a Grand Slam final.
"We would have been rooting for them. Great guys. It's great to see another marquee team out there. They're gonna gather a lot of attention for doubles. They're going to be spokesmen for doubles, which we love. I think this is gonna raise the profile," said Bob.
Image: Bryan bothers with Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi
'It choked me up'
"It choked me up. I could see him (Qureshi) -- he was quivering a little bit -- he was very choked up. Just to give that message to everyone was very heartfelt. You know, even said before, he's like, I'm gonna say something about Pakistan. I hope you don't mind. I don't want to steal your limelight. We said, 'That's great'," he added.
Bopanna and Qureshi played the US Open final on the eve of the ninth anniversary 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington which killed thousands.
Just like the semi-finals, the United Nations ambassadors from India (Hardeep Suri) and Pakistan (Abdullah H Haroon) sat together in the stands to cheer for the duo nicknamed the 'Indo-Pak Express'.
Bopanna said both he and Qureshi were thankful to the two dignitaries for turning up at the match.
"I mean we are just thankful they came out for us, they encouraged us and were very appreciative towards our efforts, they took time out to watch us in the semis and the finals and they sat together and cheered for us which is great, unfortunately we couldn't win," said the Indian Davis Cupper.
Image: Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi speaks after their doubles match against Bob and Mike Bryan at the US Open tennis tournament
'We have had a great year together'
Bopanna and Qureshi also thanked fans from their respective countries for supporting them through their campaign.
"All those people from Pakistan and India supporting us these past two weeks, I thank everyone for helping me out but most importantly I would like to thank Aisam for playing with me and sticking with me we have had a great year together," said Bopanna.
"I must thank my parents, brother, sister for supporting me throughout my career. People in Pakistan and India for supporting us, I must thank Rohan for sticking by me when I needed him the most and for playing with me and helping me with my cause and helping me to send some positive news to people back home in Pakistan and making them smile," added Qureshi.
Image: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi
'They had great reflexes that's what made the difference'
Bopanna said losing the close match to the Bryans was a disappointment but he and Qureshi would take heart from the impression they made at the season's last Grand Slam.
"I think Aisam and I generally play great at tie breaks, so far that's normally been our strength, we have won a lot of matches on the ATP Circuit, but I guess today they had the upper hand they came up with good shots and important times and they had great reflexes that's what made the difference," said Bopanna.
Bopanna said the experience at the Flushing Meadows has now given them the confidence of standing up to just about any team in the world.
"We believe in ourselves and we believe in each other, we know that we can stay with the big teams at the big tournaments. We know we can compete and beating tough opponents at this level is a great confidence booster.
"I guess we know that if we stick to our game and play to our strength we can beat anybody across the net," he said.
Image: Bryan Brothers celebrate after winning US Open doubles title