Bangalore, Jun 18: Indian Davis Cupper Rohan Bopanna was Friday named a "Champion for Peace". He joins a group of 47 major international athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport.
Created at the initiative of "Peace and Sport", a neutral international organisation under the High Patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco, the "Champions for Peace" club includes elite athletes representing 27 different nationalities.
They embody 26 Olympic and non-Olympic sports disciplines, boasting a total of 49 World champions, 20 Olympic champions and more than a hundred national and regional titles.
Each Champion for Peace, in his or her own way, takes action to ensure that the values of sport contribute to dialogue, rapprochement and reconciliation between communities that have been divided by armed conflict, extreme poverty or lack of social cohesion.
In doubles, Bopanna was ranked 43rd in 2008 (a career high) after winning the Los Angeles Open. Rohan is currently ranked 51st, thanks to his superb victory in the final of the South African Open in Johannesburg in February 2010 and reaching the finals at the Nice Open in May 2O10.
Bopanna has represented India in the Davis Cup on nine occasions since 2002. He aims to represent his country at the upcoming Commonwealth Games and 2012 Olympics in London.
Bopanna also brings unprecedented experience and motivation to the Champions for Peace initiative. For over three years, he has played doubles with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi from Pakistan, who is also a Champion for Peace.
Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Bopanna have enjoyed success playing together - winning one ATP trophy and numerous Challenger trophies as well as reaching the finals of four ATP World Tour events.
Before the end of the year, Bopanna and Qureshi hope to organise a friendly tennis match at the Wagah border, the only checkpoint on the frontier between India and Pakistan.
"I am very proud to be named a 'Champion for Peace," declared Bopanna. "Through tennis, I've become friends with people I had nothing in common with - not language, not culture, not religion.
"I am proud to say that I consider Aisam as a brother, even if our two countries have lived in tension for over 60 years. Together, we unite our forces to go further. I believe that our story will inspire other people to get to know each other by playing sport, despite their fears or their prejudices."
Joel Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, himself a World Champion and Olympic medallist, added: "Through their message of brotherhood, dialogue and peace, Rohan and Aisam are helping to change mentalities and attitudes in India and Pakistan as well as in other areas of the world affected by conflict. We are pleased to support them in this great adventure, and to welcome Rohan into the Champions for Peace club. I know we can count on him to be a great ambassador for peace through sport."