India has seen tremendous growth in acceptance of female sports and due credit goes to the popularism promulgated by star sporting celebrities like Sania Mirza. Following in India’s footsteps, Pakistan is battling out the odds to make way for its prominence in female sports – one such sporting prodigy is our home-bred 16-years old Iman Qureshi.
A Tennis Superstar in the Making
Iman was born in Lahore on 20 July 1997 to Omar and Meena Qureshi and has played tennis in the semi-professional to professional circuit since the age of 13. She got hooked to the game at the age of 10 and has since won several awards and accolades for her performance on the court. By all virtues of her career and at the time of writing, she is ranked second amongst the under-18s female tennis players in Pakistan.
An alumni of the Lahore Grammar School, Iman reminisces about the challenges she faced while adopting the sport and feels somewhat disappointed by the lack of credible endorsement coming the way of female sportswomen in the country. However, that didn’t stop her from turning her dreams into reality. She ranked 17th in the All-Asia Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) Championships – the only Pakistani in the rankings – after she won the ATF championship held in Damascus, Syria in 2010. She also ranked third after performing exceptionally in the ATF Doubles Championship in Aleppo, Syria, thereby making Pakistan proud.
Starting Young and Wining Big
Her wins in Syria weren’t the only highlights in her career. She competed in several competitions within Pakistan and won most of them. In 2008, she became the youngest competitor to win the National Governers Cup at the tender age of 11, whilst also winning the Pakistan Tennis Federation’s National Championship two years later in 2010. Based on her performance, she was selected to represent Pakistan in the coveted Fed Cup in 2013.
Making Waves at the Fed Cup
She couldn’t have asked for anything better in her life than to represent her country in one of the most coveted grand slam championships in female tennis. In the Group II Asia/Oceania-B round-robin matches, she may not have secured a victory but managed to wow her fellow team mates with hard-hitting battles against Malaysia’s Aslina Chua An Ping at the National Tennis Centre in Astana, Kazakhstan.
In these matches held in February 2013, she managed to score 6-7 and 5-7 in the two sets she played against the Malaysian challenger where Pakistan’s top seed Ushna Suhail managed 2-6 and 0-6 defeats in her sets against Malaysia’s Theiviya Selvarajoo.
Iman was later partnered with Sara Mansoor in the doubles against Philippines’ Marian Jade Capadocia and Anna Clarice Patrimonio at the National Tennis Centre in Astana, Kazakhstan in February 2013 with devastating results for Pakistan. “I am not disappointed about the matches as we managed to nevertheless secure a stronger position for Pakistan is later Fed Cup championships,” says Iman.
Turning the Tide
Pakistan had its first win in the Fed Cup round-robin tournaments when Iman partnered with Sara Mansoor again to defeat the Iranian double partners Sahar Najaei and Arezoo Youlghouni with perfect 6-0 and 6-0 wins. With this absolutely astounding win, Pakistan retained its position in Asia/Oceania Group II for future matches. With this, the only win for Pakistan in the 2013 Fed Cup round-robin matches, she might have just saved Pakistan from resorting into the shadows.
A Budding Fashionista
Iman had never shied away from adopting the latest trends. In fact, she feels more comfortable wearing skirts on the court where other female Pakistani tennis players shy away from the prescribed attire. Within her is a budding fashionista and people in the fashion industry look up to her and anticipate Iman gracing their creations.
Iman can be spotted mingling amongst designers and Pakistan’s fashion spearheads like Frieha Altaf gracefully carrying off a Deepak Perwani creation and accessories. Much like Sania Mirza’s growing appeal in the neighbouring country, Iman is certain that it is these appearances that makes her come to the notice of the public at large.
In a country where female sports and athletes rarely get endorsements for their respective sports, Iman is slowly and gradually positioning herself as an entrepreneur in many regards. Where she is currently focused entirely on her studies, the young tennis playing superstar is sure to make huge waves in the future. However, while she keeps her nose in her textbooks, you should keep your eyes peeled for Pakistan’s other female tennis goddesses on the courts in the upcoming 2014 Fed Cup qualifiers.