© Chengdu Open

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi attempts to win his fifth ATP World Tour title of 2017 Sunday with Jonathan Erlich.

Qureshi Seeks Fifth Title Of 2017, With Message Of Peace For Good Measure

The Pakistani could reach a personal milestone with Israel's Jonathan Erlich in Chengdu, China

Whether you’d like to call it ‘five-for-five’ or ‘five-with-five’, ATP World Tour veteran Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi will attempt to win his fifth doubles title of the year with a fifth different partner at the Chengdu Open on Sunday.

“It’s obviously a very, very good feeling and a great feeling to reach four finals and win all four of them, especially playing with four different partners,” said Qureshi, who alongside partner Jonathan Erlich will play either Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner or Yen-Hsun Lu and Divij Sharan, who contest their semi-final Saturday. “[I] hope things go well and I can get another title this year, with a different partner again.”

Qureshi has had an inconsistent year, but not just in the way you might think. The Pakistani has now played with 14 different partners this season — 15, if you include Davis Cup. Yet it has arguably been one of the right-hander’s most successful campaigns. He started 2017 at No. 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, his lowest year-end finish since 2009 (No. 59). Yet Qureshi won four titles by the end of July, and is on the doorstep of a fifth, which would break his own personal record of four titles in one season (2011).

“Honestly speaking I had no idea I had won four titles in the past in a year,” the former World No. 8 admitted.  “That’s a great statistic, I had no clue about it. Obviously would be awesome if I could break that record of mine.”

Qureshi has climbed back to No. 29 in the rankings, despite tough finishes at the Grand Slams. His best result at a major this year — of course, with three different partners — was a third-round appearance at Wimbledon with Florin Mergea. The North American hard court swing was also tough for Qureshi, who lost five matches in a row — with four different partners — after capturing the Newport title with Rajeev Ram.

“Tennis is a funny sport, you know? Before the summer I won four titles and won a Challenger as well and was feeling pretty good,” said Qureshi, who wouldn't let the disappointment send him into a funk. “I think it’s just about telling yourself you’re playing well and you’ve got to keep working hard and stay in the process and don’t think about the results too much. I feel like if you’re doing the right things with the right attitude, good things happen.”

Good things have certainly happened this week in Chengdu for Qureshi and Erlich, who beat the top-seeded duo of Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, the Wimbledon finalists, in the first round. And while they did not form their partnership because of it, Qureshi hopes that playing with Erlich, an Israeli, sends a positive message to people in their countries and around the world. He once before played with Erlich in Houston in 2015, but made worldwide headlines more than a decade earlier when he partnered another Israeli, Amir Hadad, at Wimbledon in 2002.

“I think winning a title with Jonathan would be very, very special,” Qureshi said. “The message we send or the people get from it obviously is about friendship and about peace and I hope we can change or influence a few people’s lives… the message people can get, hopefully the positive one, is going to be a bonus [in addition to the results] for both of us.”

Then, there is the question of age. Qureshi, 37, is closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning, but don’t bring up that number to him. If you ask Qureshi, he’ll point out the success of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal this season.

“I know I’m 37, but I still feel like I’m 27. That’s how my heart feels,” Qureshi said. “I’m really happy to bounce back obviously after a very, very rough summer and hopefully can turn things around again and have a great end of the season and finish the year hopefully Top 20, if not Top 15.”

If there’s one thing you should know about Qureshi, it’s that he still has goals he wants to achieve and he will do everything in his power to accomplish them.

“I still have a lot of motivation and [I’m] still motivated to get back into Top 10 and to win a Slam and to be World No. 1. I think that’s what drives me to make me work harder every day and every week and hopefully I can achieve these goals,” Qureshi said. “I think I still really have a few more good years in me and hopefully I can spend those years in the top of the game.”

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