Amir Hadad wasn’t courting symbolism.
Hadad, a 24-year-old-professional tennis player from Israel, tells The Jewish Week he became the partner of Pakistan’s Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi in time for doubles play at the Wimbledon tournament in London in July for financial reasons.
"We just wanted to make some money," says Hadad, who lost his singles match in the qualifying round of the U.S. Open that began this week in Flushing, Queens, and was to be teamed again with Qureshi in doubles. They made it to the third round at Wimbledon.
"We can’t change anything" in the political world, Hadad says.
"I know all the Israeli players. They are good friends," Qureshi told the London Jewish Chronicle. "We are not trying to change anything by playing together."
The pairing of Hadad, who describes himself as a "not religious" but kosher-observant Jew, and Qureshi, 22, a practicing Muslim, is one of the most-noted cases of Jewish-Islamic cooperation in sports in recent years. The international press hailed the event. Pakistan sports authorities told Qureshi to find a new teammate or face suspension from his country’s Davis Cup team next month. Qureshi, Pakistan’s top player, has ignored the threats.
"I got a little fame" from his unique mixed doubles team, says Hadad, a six-year pro. He is the 190th-ranked men’s single player in the world and 119th in doubles.
"The journalists came to me," he says of his Wimbledon pairing. "Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s a little bit annoying."
A baseline player with hard ground strokes, Hadad was approached at Wimbledon during a practice session. "He just asked me" if I was looking for a doubles partner, Hadad says of Qureshi. "Yeah, I’m looking," Hadad answered.
They gave no thought to the symbolism. Qureshi, in fact, had teamed with Israelis in earlier, less-prestigious tournaments, and drew no notice. This time, people noticed.
The players’ styles "clicked," and they became friends off court, avoiding discussions of politics.
"We didn’t expect to get so much attention," Hadad says. Qureshi could not be reached for comment.
Hadad says he has received no threats since teaming with Qureshi, and gets no more security than other Israelis on the pro tennis tour.
And, he says, when he plays singles, he is almost anonymous. "When I’m by myself," Hadad says, "no one knows who I am."
Meanwhile, another Israeli, Harel Levy, won his first-round match Monday at the Open by upsetting 30th-seeded Andrei Pavel of Romania in five sets.