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Amir Hadad

(1978 - )

Amir Hadad, who turned pro in 1995, is ranked No. 251 in the world in doubles as of July 8, 2004. He reached the highest ranking of his career, 85, in June, 2003. Amir is also ranked No. 385, in singles; his best ranking was 187 in July, 2002.

In 2002, Hadad qualified for the French Open; he reached the second round of the tournament before losing to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 4-6, 5-7. His only previous Grand Slam appearance had been at the 1999 Wimbledon tournament, where he lost in the first round of the singles competition. Amir was 2-2 in singles play in 2002, and had a career record of 3-6 in singles.

In mid-July 2002, Amir and his partner Martin Vassallo Arguello won the Seascape Challenger Tournament doubles final. In the same tournament, fellow Israeli Noam Behr reached the singles finals, while Israelis Harel Levy and Noam Okun reached the doubles semifinals.

In the qualifying tournament for the 2003 Australian Open, Hadad defeated Michihisa Onoda of Japan, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round. Amir won his next match against Arvind Parmar of Great Britain (the No. 28), 6-1, 7-5. In the third round, however, Amir lost to No. 11 seed Christophe Rochus of Belgium, 6-1, 6-0.

Hadad won the Ho Chi Minh tournament in Vietnam in early 2003, when he beat Yuri Schukin in the final. He also won doubles titles in Gronigen, Rome, San Remo, and Kyoto during the year.

At the 2003 Wimbledon, Hadad competed in the qualifying tournament for both singles and doubles. In the singles competiton, he lost in the first round. In the doubles event, Hadad teamed with Qureshi of Pakistan, and they advanced to the tournament out of the qualifying rounds. In the first round of competition, however, Hadad and Qureshi lost to Jiri Novak and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, 6-7 (5-7), 5-7, and 5-7.

On February 6, 2003, Hadad and his doubles partner from the 2002 Wimbledon and U.S. Open tournaments, Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan, were chosen as the winners of the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award. ATP Chief Executive Officer Mark Miles said, "During a summer when fear and hatred garnered much of the headlines, Amir and Aisam-ul-Haq provided much needed relief with their simple message about tolerance through tennis...It's fitting that we present the Arthur Ashe Award to these two players on the anniversary of Arthur's death, as Arthur remains the model for all of us on how athletes and sport can make a big difference in the lives of others."

At the 2002 Wimbledon tournament, Hadad teamed with Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan. This extraordinary doubles team, with its bravely enlightened but controversial pairing of an Israeli and a Muslim, reached the third round at Wimbledon, attaining an upset victory in the second round over the No. 11 seeded team of Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach. Hadad's pair then lost to the No. 7 seeded team of Martin Damm and Cyril Suz in the third round, 1-6, 6-7 (5-7), 4-6.

The teaming of Hadad and Qureshi made international news when the Pakistani Sports Board threatened to ban Qureshi for teaming with a Jew (the threat was later rescinded and he was invited to join Pakistan's Davis Cup team). Hadad, on the other hand, received nothing but support from Israel. The president of Israel's tennis federation, David Harnik, said, "We like the idea. We think there's nothing like sports to bridge the gap between nations and to be the start of solving problems."

When asked about the controversy surrounding their partnership, Hadad told reporters, "...we came to play tennis. There are some people who maybe want to make headlines, say bad things about this. But I see it as only a positive that two guys from different nationalities can play together. We are good friends and I think we're going to keep playing together in the future. We're here to improve our ranking, to make some money."

Hadad and Qureshi stated they planned on teaming again at the 2002 U.S. Open. They achieved their goal when they were awarded a wild card entry by the tournament. Although they had not played together since Wimbledon, the now-famous doubles team won their first round match over Argentineans Mariano Hood and Sebastian Prieto, 6-4 and 6-2. In the second round, they faced defending champions Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe and lost the match, 4-6, 6-4, 2-6.

Despite their early exit, Hadad and Qureshi continued to receive praise and support for their partnership. During the tournament, they repeated that their pairing was not a political statement, but that they both noticed their countrymen in the stands during the matches. Regardless of what they are playing for, the fact that Israelis were cheering for a Muslim, and Pakistanis for a Jew, demonstrates that sports can indeed transcend politics. During the Open, Hadad said, "Two people from different countries, different cultures, you know, can team up, play together, play good tennis together. If you put in politics, maybe they can do the same thing."

Sources: Jews in Sports