Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi, Pakistan's number-one player, has never been afraid to play doubles on the ATP tour alongside a Jew or a Hindu; for him, politics, creed, religion or language do not matter when it comes to sport. He is not out to make a particular statement, but it is hard to ignore the significance of his partnerships when he takes to the court. Qureshi was not lined up with long-time friend Rohan Bopanna, of India, on the same side of the net in yesterday's doubles in the Davis Cup tie against Hong Kong at Victoria Park, but the story of the Muslim tennis player who is happily teams up with a Israeli or a Hindu seems to follow him like a shadow. He smiles when the subject is raised, perhaps for the umpteenth time in his career. Why did you decide to partner an Israeli - Amir Hadad - and an Indian - Bopanna - in doubles on the ATP circuit? 'I have never taken it that seriously. I always thought sport should never mix with politics, religion or language. That's the beauty of sport, it should bring all countries and cultures together. 'It's not like I want to make a statement, it's just that I do well with these guys. If I feel I do well with a Jew, Christian or Indian and, if they can help me to promote this game in Pakistan, then I will definitely keep on playing with them,' Qureshi adds. The Lahore-born Qureshi made waves in 2002 at Wimbledon when he partnered Hadad, from Ramla, Israel, in the men's doubles event. Dubbed the odd couple by the British media, Qureshi was threatened with sanctions by the Pakistan Sport Board, which warned him he would be thrown out of the country's federation unless he ditched his partner. Qureshi ignored the threats, saying at the time: 'That's their own loss. If they want to stay in Group II [of the Davis Cup] or lower levels, fine.' The following year, Qureshi and Hadad won the ATP's Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for promoting 'tolerance through tennis'. The critics back home fell silent and life went on. Qureshi had made a statement. He continues risking the wrath of religious fundamentalists today by partnering regular doubles partner Bopanna. 'I thought I could do really well with Amir and I did. I qualified for Wimbledon and made the round of 16 in 2003, and with Rohan now I'm doing the same thing. I won my first ATP title with him and I'm ranked 52 now in doubles. We have also won 10 Challenger titles together,' Qureshi says. 'Bonding with Rohan hasn't been difficult. Our language is pretty much the same. There are no Pakistanis on tour with me and that's why I'm really good friends with the Indians; it is pretty much the same culture and same language. I have also known Rohan since 1997 when we played juniors together. The reason we do so well is our relationship off the court, we have the same interests.' Qureshi comes from a tennis background: his grandfather, Khuwaja Iftekar Ahmed, was a prominent player in the pre-partition days, while Qureshi's mother, Nosheen Ehtesham, won the national title as recently as 2000. 'I have never seriously given any thought to who I partner. My principle has always been whether I can do well with my partner. I never thought that partnering an Israeli or an Indian would become a big issue.' Qureshi isn't the only example of a tennis pairing causing consternation among the radicals. When Indian star Sania Mirza, a Muslim, teamed up with Israel's Shahar Peer in 2005, it caused uproar among Islamic activists who demanded the 'unholy' alliance be stopped. Yet Qureshi feels it was all a storm in a teacup. 'Although there were some initial concerns from the authorities [the federation], they are now OK and everyone is supportive. Even in 2002, when I played with Amir, the public was behind me. My friends and family have always stuck by me and people who liked tennis have supported me.' Despite the tensions between India and Pakistan, exacerbated by the Indian Premier League cricket fiasco, where no Pakistani player was signed up at last month's auction, Qureshi will continue playing with Bopanna. 'We have decided we will play as many tournaments as possible this season. We are growing really strong as a combination and as friends. We won our first ATP title in Dubai and will give it our best shot to win a grand slam title,' he says. Yet Qureshi's increased commitment to doubles has seen his singles ranking suffer. Once ranked 125th - at the end of 2007 - he has slipped down to 625. 'It is a mixture of few things. I had a coach and for some reason things didn't gel with him. I was also defending a lot of points in 2008, which unfortunately I was not able to do and my singles ranking dropped, but for some reason my doubles kept improving.' This situation has led Qureshi, who turns 30 next week, to focus on doubles on the ATP Tour - with Bopanna. 'All my life, my main goal has been to promote tennis in Pakistan and the only way to do that is to play at the highest level tournaments or play in the grand slams. I can do this now by playing in doubles, as I'm not getting any younger,' he says. 'But Davis Cup is a priority for me and with the Asian Games coming up [in November] I have to keep playing singles. 'This year I have already played three singles tournaments and, hopefully, one day, if I can keep playing and qualifying for the bigger tournaments, my ranking will improve.'