Leander Paes — closing in on a fourth decade as professional

Says he feels “blessed” to have had such a long career

Indian veteran Leander Paes says he feels “blessed” to have had such a long career, as he closes in on his fourth decade as a professional, having accumulated 18 Grand Slam doubles titles and an impressive racquet collection.

For a man who once beat a young Roger Federer in Indian Wells qualifying and won a singles bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, it has been some journey.

“I’ve been around for 30 years, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen 12 generations. I’ve seen guys like (Pete) Sampras here, I’ve seen guys like (Pat) Rafter,” he said.

“Tennis has been a beautiful journey for me, I’ve been very blessed to have such a long career. Especially here, to win this four times.”

Paes has no plans to stop any time soon, especially with the Tokyo Olympics coming up next year.

Locker room respect

Paessays even the best players in the world are still sometimes taken aback by his longevity.

“I think in the locker room I have this respect,” he said. “I was just coming back and Rafa (Nadal) and Uncle Toni (Nadal’s former coach) were walking in and Uncle Toni was like, ‘Leo, you’re 46?’ I said ‘Oui’. You played for the first time at Roland Garros in 1989 (juniors)? In 1989 you played?’. I said ‘Oui’. ‘I saw you won the first set, did you win?’ ‘Oui’.

“He said ‘woah, it’s incredible. Hey Rafa, 46 years old and he’s still playing and winning’.

“For me, this is beautiful, because Rafa is one of the greatest of all time. Toni is one of the great tennis minds of all time.

“And to have the relationship I have with all the players, to have the respect from all the locker room, it takes many years of hard work.”

Paes has played with some illustrious names down the years, and a tradition of swapping racquets with his partners has seen him garner an amazing collection.

“I have a collection of close to 1,000 racquets. I have Rod Laver’s, I have a lot of the champions’ — Federer, Nadal, (Novak) Djokovic, Andy (Murray), (Martina) Navratilova I played with a lot. Serena, Venus, Hingis…

“Wooden ones going back to Bjorn Borg’s. My first racquet, I have.”

Source: Read Full Article