When Leander Paes first played for India in the Davis Cup in 1990, Akhtar Ali was the coach and Akhtar’s son Zeeshan was Leander’s partner. In 2013, Zeeshan is Leander’s coach in the Davis Cup team. Asked for his comments on Akhtar and Zeeshan’s contribution to his career, Leander was at his humourous best, “I hope I’m not around when their grandson becomes the coach,” he said. “Yes, Akhtar saab and Zeeshan have supported me immensely. Akhtar was the one who improved my strokes and fine-tuned me. Zeeshan always played his part. Now as the coach, it’s about pointing out the small things for improvement. They have been my constant guiding forces,” said Leander.
“I’m happy to be around. Som, Yuki and Sanam are the present and future of Indian tennis. I’ll play as long as I can as I simply love tennis and love to play for my country,” Leander said. Asked which was his best Davis Cup tie, Leander said that there have been many. “But yes, the one against France in Frejus was probably the best. They had some incredibly good players like Henri Leconte and Arnaud Boetsch. I won both my singles matches against them before Ramesh Krishnan won the last one to help India win 3-2. It was a dream come true,” said Leander.
“Leander is a great fighter. His commitment to the team is unquestioned. It was always exciting to be part of the team with him around. His energy and enthusiasm is unmatched and infectious. He is a great player and I am very proud of him,” said veteran Akhtar Ali, who incidentally was the Indian team’s coach when Bangalore last hosted a Davis Cup tie against Sweden in 1985. Now his son Zeeshan is in the hot seat.