Each one of my 164 partners has taught me something about both life and tennis: Leander Paes
Even as he is looking ahead to 2021 and the tantalising promise of one last dance with the sport, the 47-year-old, in an interview to The New Indian Express, looks back at his trophy-filled career
CHENNAI: This year was supposed to be Leander Paes' swansong, a final Indian summer before hanging up his racquet. The coronavirus pandemic put paid to that as it burned down the tennis calendar.
Even as he is looking ahead to 2021 and the tantalising promise of one last dance with the sport he has decorated for over three decades, the 47-year-old, in a short interview to The New Indian Express, looks back at his trophy-filled career through the prism of his partners and one legacy of his that will stand the test of time — an Olympic medal at a time when India used to go the Games not hoping for one.
When you eventually retire, what is the one defining legacy that you would like to be remembered by?
I am the son of an Olympic champion (his father, Vece, won bronze in hockey at the 1972 Games). And I am an Olympic baby, I was conceived at the 1972 Games when both my father and mother were in Munich. As an Olympic baby, I am extremely proud to have played in seven consecutive Games. But I think standing on the podium in Atalanta (he won bronze in men's singles at the 1996 Games) and watching the Indian flag go up is the one defining moment I would like to be remembered by... as the true son of the soil.
You have played with over a 100 partners. Who would be in your top five in men and women?
You have got to have Purav Raja in there, right? We beat the second seeds at the Australian Open when we played together, I love helping him with his career. We also played the Davis Cup together. Then, there is Radek Stepanek, Mahesh Bhupathi, Martin Damm, Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Cara Black, Lisa Raymond to name a few... you know every single one of my 164 partners has taught me something. They have taught me about life, the ups and downs of professional tennis... when you are that intimate with another human being on a court when the whole world is watching you, you get to learn the strengths and weaknesses of people. You get to build a great bond with them. For me, I have been very blessed to have great partners throughout my career.
Watch Leander Paes on Chai with Raja on 17th October at 7:00 pm on Sony Six.