Leander Paes Curated
Indian Tennis Player
CURATED BY : +44 others
How important is physical and mental fitness in tennis?
How have you redefined your game over the years?
What has been the importance of your long term mixed doubles partner Martina Hingis in your life? Did playing with her revitalize your career?
How do you deal with players who have a slow approach to the game?
How tough was it achieving fame in India which is known to be a cricketing nation?
How was the experience of representing India in the Olympics for the first time?
How was it like growing up in a family that excelled at sports?
What’s the secret to your long lasting career?
Do you think Indian athletes lack in fitness because we are behind on the training system?
Have you ever felt like giving up because you got swayed by your emotions? How much of a part do emotions play in an athlete’s performance?
How did you feel when some players refused to play under your captaincy in the Davis Cup?
Were you ever a victim of jealousy or politics given your successful career?
Having already done a movie, do you see a career in acting for yourself after retirement?
Do you want a picture perfect retirement?
What kind of a path would you want your daughter Ayana to follow?
What’s your first memory of playing at Wimbledon?
What changes have you noticed in tennis over your long career?
How much has the modern tennis player changed in aspects of physicality?
How did you adjust to playing in doubles?
What are your thoughts on the modern day volley?
How important is team spirit when you are playing as a team in something like a Davis Cup?
How was the experience of being around tennis greats like Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker?
Who is the life of the locker room when all you tennis players gather around?
Which player did you stay away from?
Martina Navratilova is one of the mixed doubles partner that you share quite a few achievements with. How did you get to play with her?
In 2003 you were diagnosed with Neurocysticercosis, a condition which occurs because of a parasitic brain infection. How did you deal with such a major condition which might have ended your career?
How did you bounce back after the brain tumor incident?
What was your happiest day as an athlete?
You missed out a lot of the normal things that teenagers around you did. Do you ever regret that?
What’s behind the story of you sleeping in the locker rooms of tennis courts?
Was there a point in your career where you wanted to call it quits?
What’s right and wrong with Indian tennis?
How do you transform your performance when you’re representing India at the Davis Cup?
If you had to narrow it down, what would you say is wrong with the Indian tennis scene?
Do you think Indians have the physique for modern day tennis which has become very demanding in physical fitness?
What went wrong at the 2016 Rio Olympics where Indian tennis players didn’t manage to win a single medal?
What are the antagonisms in Indian tennis?
Do you think Indian sports federations are more political compared to other countries?
Given your status as a juggernaut of the Indian tennis scenes, would you extend a hand to the tennis association to help them out in bringing changes?
Has the mindset of Indian athletes changed from just participating in the Olympics to winning medals at the Olympics?
Why do you think Indian tennis players are better at doubles looking at how we shine in that department?
Is there a place for political tension in sports, like India refusing to play against Pakistan because of the tension at the border?
How do you keep yourself fit?
Are you ever surprised by your own success or did you expect all the achievements that came your way?
Which achievement brings back happier memories when you look back at it?
How many mixed double grand slams are you targeting?
How much of an effort did you put in when you were given a tennis racquet as a child?
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for you given your various health issues. What’s your take on that?
Did the various setbacks that you had to go through encourage you to come back ever stronger and sharper?
Mahesh Bhupathi and you have three doubles titles together. What was the secret of that partnership?
You share 11 major titles with Czech players. What is it about them that vibes so well with you?
What do you think you’ve inherited from your father, Vece Paes, who’s famous for winning the Olympic bronze in Hockey for India in 1972.
You play style has been termed unorthodox many a times. Do you use that unorthodox method to your advantage?
How difficult is it to strategize while playing?
The Rio Olympics in 2016 didn’t really go as expected for you, crashing out in the very first game that you played. How tough was that disappointment to take in?
Given both your parents are accomplished sportsperson in their own rights, do you think they’d have been disappointed if you didn’t pursue a career in sports?
How different would it be if you hated sports growing up and wanted to pursue a career as a doctor or an engineer?
Does representing India in the Davis Cup mean more than winning Grand Slams for you?
Is self belief something that keeps you going in adverse situations?
What are your views on the use of performance enhancing drugs?
Do you think athletes should be held responsible for not researching which drug is banned and which isn’t?
Do you think regular dope tests are intrusive to an athlete’s privacy?
How would you say we can keep sports clean?
Who’s the biggest name that you’ve beaten in your singles career?
In the 1996 Olympics, you were denied a Silver Medal when you lost to Andre Agassi in the Semi Final of the Men’s singles event. Do you look back at it as a match that you could’ve won?
What’s the difference in playing for the country compared to when you play for individual accolades?
What’s your volleying game dependent on?
Who’s your favourite players to pair up with in the Mixed Doubles event?
Who’s your favourite players to pair up with in the Men’s Doubles event?
What made you come to Bollywood?
How was the experience of acting in the movie Rajdhani Express?
What according to you is the similarity between acting and playing?
What are your goals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
At this point, it is very hard to set new goals, I try to figure new targets and achieve these goals. After you win 15-16 Grand Slams or play in 6-7 Olympics, they just become numbers for you mentally. I play because I am passionate about playing for the country and playing my tennis. I enjoy the lifestyle of it...About Tokyo Olympics, that is the big goal. But that too will come after the small goals. It's still 2019, and 2020 is yet to come.
How much of an importance do Asian games hold for you?
For me, Asian Games is an important event since I am not playing the full calendar. I have cut down the number of tournaments and will be playing in two tournaments this season. I will be playing in Wimbledon before the Asian Games.
Martina Hingis and you became the first team to win three mixed doubles titles in a year since 1969 back in 2015. How do you look back at that achievement?
Being the first since 1969 to win three out of the four slams and another one that is really precious to me is that I have won nine mixed doubles titles now, which is the most by a male in the mixed doubles in the Open era, and the only person who has won more titles in mixed doubles are by (Martina) Navratilova (10), my old mixed doubles partner, and I am really looking forward to bettering that number next year.
What were you and Martina Hingis discussing when the match was in a Super Tie-Break back in 2015 Wimbledon final?
We took a little bit of a break after the second set when we lost that 3-6 and we went into the locker room and just freshened up, put some cold water on our face and had a little bit of a chat in terms of strategy. Bethanie-Matek had beaten it down my line twice in the second set on two major points: one was at 1-all on her serve at a break point and one was on Martina's serve at 1-2 on a break point. She played two fantastic shots up my line and she was going for broke. So basically we decided not to give her any out at all, especially now that she was quite quick on the net and was crossing a lot. So I decided to cover my line a little bit, and that Martina gets her returns in play. That being said, I was quite surprised that Sam Querrey served a double fault at 5-4 up in the tie-break, which gave us a big opening, and then, like I said, at 7-all I just read the play. I've been a very blessed man all my career. I just figured that Bethanie-Matek was going to come to my forehand on her serve, and I managed to get a good return just up the line, on the line; and then served it out very solidly for the title.
Given from what you’ve told us, it’s clear that you and Martina have meeting of minds as well in your partnership. Will you say it’s true?
Martina has been very, very good for both Sania (Mirza) and myself. I have won three Grand Slams already with her, and she is going for her second Grand Slam with Sania in a couple of days. She definitely is very lucky for us and it's a great partnership and friendship with Martina. Just everyday to persevere and keep improving in our game, with our tennis and keep trying to win Grand Slams and the big tournaments is what makes all the hard yards and the tough times well worth it.
Would you say Martina Hingis is your best mixed doubles partner?
I have had so many amazing mixed partnerships. One with Martina Navratilova; I have had a great partnership with her. Navratilova became one of my dearest confidants and one of my best friends, and now Martina Hingis. What we have achieved this year is really special and, like I said earlier, I would love to have the honour to match the 10 Grand Slam mixed-doubles titles like Navratilova and better that and show my respect for her in achieving that my milestone.
Back when you started in 1990 India hadn’t won a single slam, and now you alone have 18 Grand Slams in Mixed and Doubles events. How many more do you want to add to that tally?
For me to keep adding up the numbers is a wonderful thing but more important is to keep pushing my body and my mind to re-invent itself to keep getting better and better – learning shots, learning more fitness regimes, just mentally stay as alert and as hungry for improving my game . I think that's the important part and that's why I love playing with Martina. Our practice sessions is actually where we keep improving. So when we get onto the match court, then it just becomes muscles and mind, something what’s magic made of. To hit a return down the line and on the line at 7-all takes many, many hours of practice and a lot of perseverance and hard work. It also drives me even further to keep getting better and better and to do really well on the court and keep adding to the Grand Slam wins.
What are your views on the development of tennis in India?
I think tennis has been a growing sport in India over the last three decades. I think there's a lot more to be done. However, I'm quite happy that over my career, I have been able to popularize the game of tennis and show that is not just a hobby. The number of Indians studying in the U.S. has increased and a lot of them have used tennis as a launchpad to a successful career. At the same time, over the last 20 years or so, we have racked up a lot of Grand Slam winners. When I was a kid, nobody from India had won a single Grand Slam. Now, we have close to 30 Grand Slams. That is great for a country like India, which doesn't have facilities like Australia or the USA.
What’s the need of the hour for the development of tennis in India?
I think we need more ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and WTA (Women's Tennis Association) tournaments, especially at the Challenger Level. It gives the lower-ranked players, in the bracket of 100-150 and above, a chance to compete more often. If you look at the ATP Challenger calendar and look at how many are in China, you will be amazed. That is one of the main reasons why the Chinese are doing so well in tennis. Once, there was only Li Na. Now, you can rattle off 10-15 WTA and ATP players in the top 100.
Looking back at your career, is there anything that could’ve been a bit different? Is there anything unfulfilled?
I’m a very blessed man. I remember my childhood, the phase when I was growing up in Kolkata. I’d never have imagined that I’d get this far. Now, the Indian market has opened up. Multi-talented people are finding acceptance. It was different in 1986 when I embarked upon this journey as a 12-year-old. Back then, to be able to achieve excellence in tennis alone was a dream. To reach Wimbledon was a dream. And then to win it six times and play six Olympics...to be able to do movies...finish my first release..to carve out a career the way I’ve is indeed a blessing. And so many people have been involved in this journey. It’s them who I celebrate. My coach, my father, Sanjay Singh, Devvarman (Somdev), they have stood by me for 20 years, all through the thick and thin.
Which one shines the brightest for you? The Olympic bronze, winning all those Slams, or the win over Pete Sampras?
Atlanta was my greatest achievement because I’d worked for it the longest. I grew up seeing my dad’s (Dr Vece Paes) achievement. He was an Olympic medallist in 1972, and I always wanted my own medal. My achievements in the Olympics as well as in the Davis Cup gave me the greatest joys of my life. Yes I’ve beaten Sampras, yes I’ve contested 30 Grand Slam finals, but none of them compares to the thrill of playing for the country.
When you were down with cerebral malaria and contracted a parasitic infection on the brain, did you fear that your career would end prematurely? How have these experience changed your outlook on life?
I realized how fragile life could be. On July 4, 2003, I won Wimbledon (mixed doubles). It was Martina’s (Navratilova’s) 21st win there. No one knows what I was going through for four days before the match. The day after winning Wimbledon, I was at a hospital trying to figure out whether it was a cancerous tumour or, as it emerged later, a neurocystic parasite. The in-between period of not knowing where I was headed was a long time. It was a long six weeks. It makes you look at life differently. Now, just short of my 40th birthday, I realize there’s so much to achieve — as a human being, father, businessman, athlete and friend. So the essence of life becomes learning. I’ve always been a student of life or anything I do, but at that point it was instilled in me even more. It reminded me that I shouldn’t take things for granted. It taught me to live in the present and make most of every minute. I come across people from all walks of life. They face the same challenges. Traffic stress, home pressure, work stress, cost of living stress, education stress, parenting stress...there’s stress everywhere. But experiences like I one I had give you a different perspective. Then you start living life in the best way you can.
Interesting face about you is that you’ve had over 100 doubles partners. What qualities are non-negotiable in doubles according to you?
Passion and communication. If you are passionate, you’ll achieve what you must. And you should communicate well enough, be a good student, absorb and learn.
If you had to choose a doubles partner out of one of the legendary players, who would you pick?
Rod Laver. Why? Left-right combination. The only player to win all four Grand Slams in the same year twice, once as an amateur and later as a pro. And he is such a humble man, a true student of life. I’ve had the good fortune of spending a lot of time with him. With Laver as doubles partner, imagine the amount of learning and sharing that would happen.
If you could, what skills would you borrow from your contemporaries?
It would be the technical skills of Federer (Roger). He’s so versatile. Or even Djokovic (Novak). The two-handed backhand he plays is phenomenal. I’m not a sound technical player. I’m more of a raw athlete. Look at Federer’s longevity. It’s because his game is so relaxed, smooth, almost like a ballerina. Jimmy Connors has been my idol. What passion he had! That’s what I strive for. Pete Sampras had the best serve. His second serve was the most solid ever. But you really want me to mix and match? I’d rather be born as Leander.
How much of a challenge is it to push the body at the age of 40?
At some point I’ve to stop, but I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. My challenge is not to push the body but the mind. The body is willing to go. The big test has been to drive the mind forward.
Rafael Nadal recently spoke about reducing his practice hours in order to be mentally fresh and not be too harsh on his body. Do you follow a realistic training regime these days?
I train intensely but the hours are not the same. That is what Rafa meant. It’s the quality that’s more important. If that is of a high order, you don’t have to worry about the quantity.
Tell us more about Ujaya, the breathing technique you have perfected. Where did you learn it?
At the age of 12, I headed towards a tennis academy in Chennai. My then coach Dave O’Meara was into Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living. And I’ve been practising it in a very scientific way. Oxygen is to the human body what jet fuel is for a jet engine and formula one fuel is for an F1 car. You stop breathing, you die. In big cites like Paris, London, Mumbai, Delhi, the quality of air is a concern. It is better in the countryside. So the more oxygen I put into my brain, the greater my power of concentration which makes me sharper on court and gives me that single-minded focus. Tennis is not a sport where you have a time limit of 20 overs or 90 minutes of a football game. It can range from two to six hours. You also have to play with a lot of ease. That’s the mental part. Also, oxygen in the brain allows you to make decisions quickly. The ball is travelling at 240 clicks an hour. Your decision making has to be sharp. You don’t have time. You have to be constantly in the moment.
Who is the true Leander Paes?
I’m a Gemini, and I’ve multiple personalities. When I’m on court, I’m immersed in playing. Off the court, it’s all fun. Everything about Leander is very pure and natural. You be tough on me, I’ll be tough on you. You be good with me, I’ll reciprocate in the same way. If you are not honest with me, I’ll distance myself.
Why is it that you aren’t mentioned in the same sentence as Tendulkar or a Vishwanathan Anand? Is it because you have led a far more complex and dramatic life, which includes falling out with the Tennis Federation and your sour relationship Mahesh Bhupati?
Not everything in life is about public perception. At the end of the day I came into this world alone; I’m going to go alone. The people I meet along the way and the difference I make to them, they very well know. There are 10,000 children in my orphanage. You didn’t know this bit, did you? And you have followed me for 30 years? That’s because I don’t talk about it. I don’t need publicity. Also, tennis is not played as much in India as elsewhere. Maybe, two Davis Cups if you are lucky and one Chennai Open. So there’s a bit of disconnect with the fans. Whereas every hour you have cricket on three different channels. I’m actually lucky to have that amazing connect with my fans for over 30 years. The people who are close to me, I’ve to be with them. I find that most people across the world are trying to find friends. They want to know how many followers they have on Twitter or on Facebook. And here I’m not getting enough quality time to spend with the people I enjoy being with.
Why have you maintained such a studied silence on your relation with Mahesh Bhupati? You didn’t respond even when he made some remarks on you before the London Olympics.
Why would I be disrespecting their knowledge? Everyone knew what Mahesh was doing before the Olympics. My statement was: are you sending two teams to participate, or one to win a medal. That explains it all. The educated and knowledgeable already knew what was happening
As a senior pro and voice of the Indian tennis fraternity, why didn’t you speak out during the players’ tiff with AITA back in 2013?
It would have shown the sport in bad light. Everyone — the parties involved and the viewers — knew what was happening. And within the sphere of sport, everyone has his own politics. So why get involved?
Why is there a drought of special talent recently?
Give them time. See what’s happening in cricket. The quality of our domestic players has improved so much. Look at the standard of Ranji Trophy. The IPL has also created a wealth of talent. Our emerging players are playing with the likes of Chris Gayle, the Pontings, the Tendulkars and the Dravids of the world. They are getting to understand what it takes to be a champion. Champions aren’t born, they are made. You have to work at it.
Is there anything in your career that you would have done differently?
Play singles longer. I gave up my singles at that point to win more Grand Slams in doubles. If I knew then that I would continue to play till I’m in my 40s, I’d have prolonged my singles career by five years.
What would you like to do after you are sated as a player?
Anything I take up has to move me. You just don’t consider something for the heck of it. You can’t occupy seats. I’ve to make a difference. If I can do that, I’m open to anything.
Have you ever thought of retiring?
I have thought about it many times. The first time I almost gave up tennis was when I was 19. Just a year before that, I was No. 1 at the Juniors and I had not lost a single match. The year I turned 19, I didn’t win a single match that whole year and I also wasn’t able to come home. As an individual athlete, you have to handle everything yourself, so I was quite fed up and I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing? This is crazy!’ That was the first time. Thereafter, there have been several times when I thought that it’s time to quit. More recently, when I won the French Open with Martina Hingis in 2016; I felt my career was complete. But then I also felt that I had to earn a living.
Will you keep playing after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
No thoughts on that at all. Maybe in a year from now, I will evaluate things. My team is actually struggling to find newer things that can motivate me. Earlier it was go win a French Open, go win a US Open, then in the last three years, it was the Davis Cup record.
How does training regime change as your body ages?
Ten years ago, I would put in around six to seven hours a day, and the results would come pretty quick. Now, I put in 10 to 12 hours a day because the results don’t come as fast. It’s much harder now. You have to do more to the body..
What motivates you?
I am motivated by excellence. And motivated by to be being the best every day and every department of my life as a son, patriot, and athlete and as a father. What drives me is that I find every day that I can get better, I want to keep improving. I want to be the best every day and in every department.
What advice would you give to youngsters?
The obstacles are out of your control but what you can really control is the way you react to it. The way you deal with it. What is the use of getting angry? feeling depressed, it does not solve anything. At the end of the day my racquet does the talking. There is no reason to get down. In our country you are going to have lot of adversity. For me, the way I live my life is the values in life and ethics. The way I have been brought up with. That is something in which I believe very strongly. I will fight for what I believe in. I always go for the truth. But at the same time you have to be tactful in dealing with adversities.
What kind of hardships have you faced in your life?
There were times when I felt the adversity is so much and why. Then you also realise that you are so blessed. You should remember that I had come from a place where I had a tumour in the head and I was given only six months to live. So, when you come back from a space like that you realise that what are the important things in life and it is very clear. And, in that where I choose to live in. For every one person, that is negative, I probably got millions of people who are positive. So, why worry about that one person, when you got million other people are positive. I listen to critics but also see if it is correct or wrong.
What lies in the future for Indian Tennis?
Earlier, it used to be only me or two three other guys. Now there are 15 or 20 guys are playing, who are close to each other on ATP ranking. But, I still feel that to play at the top levels you can easily differentiate between the best and everybody who is around 200 or three hundred in the world and then you can differentiate the guys in the top 10 or 20. I think that all of us have a lot of improving to do. All of us have to work on our games. But really the numbers have grown and now we need to keep getting the quality better. There is no reason as to why you cannot do it here. Just the work ethics, we all need to keep improving.
What keeps a champion with a glorious career like yours going?
Just trying to be the best that I can ever be. I was born with a God-given talent and I want to explore all opportunities, whether as a tennis player or as a human being, and to give back to society what I got out of it. At the same time, whatever other endeavor I undertake, I want to give it my all; be it in designing clothes, fashion, starting a tennis academy or business. Anything I would dig my hands into I want to be the best and that's what strives me when I wake up each morning.
Where does the intensity to better yourself come from?
Motivation is my biggest strength. I am never short on enthusiasm or short of energy to wake up and go after a goal. I always had it as a kid. If I want to attain something I will do anything to covet that.
Your father said you had a very traumatic style of playing which took its toll on your body. The break-up with Mahesh Bhupathi back in 2002 didn’t help your cause too much. What inspired you to the game again?
I must say 2002 was tough; the timing was very inappropriate. It took me time to bounce back, six months to find a new partner. My ranking dropped from number one in April 2002 to number 37 in December 2002. I almost lost my profession because of that. But I would attribute this passion returning thanks to my friendship with Martina Navratilova. For someone who is such a legend of the game to come out at 46, to come out each morning and be the best that she can be, there is something very special there. Coming from India, where the obstacles are great, one really found the passion in playing again. Now I don't have to play so much for money, fame or any materialistic need. I play the game because I am passionate about it; because I am a student of the game and physical training. I'm enjoying it a lot now than I did 10 years ago.
What is your vision for Indian tennis?
For any sport in India we have the facilities and training academies. To take it to the next level we need professionalism; not just in technique and strokes, but also in the diet, training regimes and mental training. It's a lifestyle. The lifestyle of a professional athlete is very demanding. It takes someone who is very dedicated along with environment to hone a champion. My goal is to come back to give to India in terms of setting the environment to mould champions. I have a tennis academy in Kolkata for eight years now - Paes and Sport. When we looked to nurture tennis players, we thought: 'what does the Paes family get to Indian sport?' And we figured we brought athleticism. Whether it was my mom, who represented India in basketball, or my dad, who won a coveted field hockey Olympic medal, or me. In tennis, the reason we did well was because of athletic ability. So we looked to nurture athletes. Looked at it in a specific manner to be a champion. It will take us two weeks to explain it. I would like to give that back to Indian sport.
How difficult was it for you when you started your Tennis journey?
Naresh Kumar was my mentor; I am what I am thanks to my parents and him. When I started there were no sponsorships. I required $240,000 every year to hone my talent. It included my airfare, the coach's fees per week; he used to travel with me for 35 weeks in a year, his airfare, laundry, hotel transportation and food. Adidas, Reebok and Prince now take care of equipment, but at that time it wasn't the case. India didn't have that sponsorship. My father worked for hours on end to muster sponsorship for me. I wouldn't be half of what I am without him. Rather than sit back and look at negatives, I turned it around and asked how I could turn things around. Nothing is difficult to achieve if you want it bad.
Does winning titles also keep you going?
Yeah, I think winning titles is always great. It’s always fantastic to go out there and say you have won a tournament, especially a tournament like this where you have not lost a set. The fact that you can come out and still win against youngsters who are 23, 25 and not lose a set is a good challenge for me, to win tournaments and trophies. But like I said earlier, there is not much else to prove in my career. I do it to bring happiness to people. We live in a world that’s quite tough nowadays. You look at what is going on in the world globally, it’s a tough life for people. For them to come and pay their hard-earned money to come and watch us play, I feel that it’s nice to bring them happiness and show them how clean tennis is, regardless of what religion or color you are. Tennis unites people, and that’s what I love to do– bring people together.
You’ve won more Grand Slam tennis tournaments than any Indian ever – what do you think is left for you achieve?
It’s always been my target to get to that level. I feel there’s more passion left inside of me to win more grand slams – and another Olympic medal. I’d definitely like to play for a few more years. There are two tournaments I really want to win – the Australian Open men’s doubles and the world championships.
How does playing in mixed doubles compare to playing with another guy?
It’s a story of two different characters. Cara Black is thoroughly professional and serious. She’s phenomenal person to have as a partner and very meticulous. There my job is to keep it fun and relaxed, because she’s so focused. Lukas Dlouhy is very laid-back. I have to figure out how to get him in the frame of mind to play. He’s an amazingly talented player but on different days he prepares differently. I’m the one who has to be thoroughly professional there. I’ve played with 19 different partners and it’s about handling personalities and communicating. When you’re out there on centre court or facing down break points in the final set, you go through so many pressured emotions together that you and your partner really have to know each other.
Are there any opponents you’re afraid of?
I’m not a fearful sort of guy. In life I focus on the moment, and on the court I’m even more so. As the ball is travelling so fast, I’m not only reacting to it but trying to pre-empt every step, and see where the match is going before it happens.
Do you get nervous before matches?
Never ever. I’ve never been nervous. I think I’m just a little crazy, I don’t fear anything.
How much has the training regime changed since you started playing?
Now it’s very different than how I used to train 20 years ago. 20 years ago I was trying to get lot of muscle memory, which means I had to hit 50-75 serves every day. Sometime kick serves on the ad court sometimes slice serves on the deuce court. Sharp serve down the T and a low backhand volley. I had to get 3 million repetitions into all the parts of the body, so they remember it. So that when I am under pressure, that repetition happens automatically. Muscle memory means when I am playing Wimbledon semifinals, and I am under pressure serving at 4-5, you don’t choke.
How do you train at the age of 45?
Now I have to protect myself from overuse injuries. There is a lot more emphasis on fitness and rehab. When I was younger I was putting seven hours on the court a day. Now, I am putting less hours on the court, so that I protect certain joints, like the rotator cuffs, the knees, the lower back. In 28 years, I would have hit 7-8 million times each stroke, so the same rotator cuff tendon, you don’t want to hurt. The same patella tendon, you don’t want to hurt by playing more on hard courts, the same hamstring, lower-back, the location of vertebrate. Lot of tennis strokes come from core and you don’t want to injure that.
Who helps you in maintaining your strict schedule?
My father plans my fitness and he always changes program every three months. Bob Carmichael and Rick Leach (his coaches) are instrumental in who I am as athlete. So my father, trainer Sanjay Singh and two coaches modified my training, kept me injury free.
What kind of an impact has veganism had on your fitness and diet?
I loved the result of being vegetarian. But my body was not getting Omega 3. I was not getting the zinc, magnesium, and the iron in my body. Because my fat percentage was low, every time I played a match, that was over in three sets, which means over two hours, I was getting full body cramps. So I started taking fish, I was only taking salmon. I was allowing good fats but no bad fats like ghee and butter. Till today I eat lot of fish.
How has your parents association with sports helped you?
My father (Vece Paes) is a doctor and an athlete, this combination is luck. He educated me on how to enhance body naturally. My athleticism, mental training has come from home. We talk about sport at the dining table at home. I had champion parents, they taught me how to handle pressure and how to get form back.
Can a youngster become good by imitating a legend of the game?
Everyone has different God given skills. Roger Federer has technique, Rafa Nadal has power, Novak Djokovic has flexibility and mind. Michael Chang never tried serving like Stefan Edberg but his speed was great, modeled his training to enhance his God given talent.
What do you see as your tennis legacy? After all, you have always been the man who played for the flag.
I think the scenario that we are in — where I am getting caught between supposedly being the association’s boy and also the players coming together in their group, so to say, to overthrow the association — the only legacy that I can leave is by my own actions; by playing the game. Try to do the best I can as an athlete, create history in my own little way and let those actions speak for themselves. Somehow I seem to be getting caught between an association that does not give me the best chance to win an Olympic medal — because if I was an association boy I would have got my choice of partner — and the boys having their own motives. I do not want to be in a situation where I want to overthrow an association. I do not want to play politics which is going to distract me away from the game. So, I am not with the group of boys who are trying to do that — at least one section of the group is trying to do that and I don't want to be with that section.
With you achieving almost every available trophy, how tough is it to set new standards for yourself?
I enjoy the game. I have achieved everything, I wanted to. Now I am playing for myself. I want to motivate people around the world that if Leander can do something even through hard and tough times, If I can keep that health and fitness and happiness about my life, then everybody else can.
You have been associated with sports for over 30 years. Are you redefining the meaning of longevity?
I am blessed to have some great friendships in my career. With someone like Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi in my sport alone. In other sports, you look at Sachin Tendulkar, Bhaichung Bhutia, Vishi (Viswanathan) Anand to name a few, they have had very long careers. I have tried to learn from my peers and friends about that extra one per cent of diet, fitness, mental happiness, recovery and how to keep reinventing myself. I have been very blessed to have such a long career partly thanks to genetics from my parents but most importantly, the hard work that I have put in for over 30 years.
When you talk about reinventing yourself, do you mean motivating yourself all over again or setting new goals and targets?
All of the above. If you look at physical fitness. I remember my 33rd year, I felt I was quite exhausted at that time. I felt exhausted, thanks to the travel and the hours of training in the gym, on the tennis court; the long days that it takes to be a Grand Slam champion. I came back to my team. To my father and my fitness coach and my dietician and my mental trainer. I reinvented my training system and then when I was 43, I had to reinvent again. Now one month shy of my 47th birthday, I have had to reinvent again with this lockdown period. So I think that it’s very important as a student of my craft or as a student of life to keep learning new things. I think that is one aspect of all the great champions in the world that I know. I have seen that they all reinvent themselves in all aspects of their lives.
Mentally, have you been very tough?
Mentally, have you been very tough? Yes, I think there are three different things. One is emotional fitness, two, physical fitness and three, there is tennis fitness — the technical side, strategy; especially during times like these, emotional fitness and physical fitness are important.
Can you put in perspective postponement of Olympics vis-a-vis your career? You had said this would be your last Olympics.
This was my last season and it started off brilliantly at the Australian Open. I got a grand farewell there. Pune (Open) was a nice run. Bangalore was nice. Dubai, I got a wonderful farewell, Bangalore too. But then after the Davis Cup in Croatia, everything came to a standstill. We were fairly lucky in Croatia. After we finished on Sunday and travelled back to India, ten odd days later, there was a huge earthquake there. So we got fairly lucky. As soon as I came back from Croatia, I was supposed to go back to Palm Springs in Miami, and it was cancelled. Then the French Open got postponed, Wimbledon cancelled. I think, at the moment, I am concentrating on reinventing myself with other businesses. It is very hard that all our careers, our jobs have come to a standstill, especially in sport. Even when the lockdown opens up because we are a global sport, we have to travel all over the world — 99 per cent of my work is outside India. I feel that in itself makes it very hard where even after the lockdown opens up. I humbly feel that there is not going to be any tennis till January 2021. Hence I have got to reinvent myself this whole year. We are only sitting in May right now, we have got all of May, June, July, the whole summer, whole of American summer. We are probably going to miss all three Grand Slams, miss an Olympics this year. So with the Olympics postponed to 2021, I think post the lockdown or towards the end of the year, as things start opening up for tennis, we (my team and I) will only reevaluate then as to whether I should continue next year or not.
Is this the longest you’ve been away from the court?
I have been blessed with such a long career and have rewritten the history books multiple times over. I am blessed to have won so much in all the four Grand Slams. Australian Open I think I have won four times, French Open four times, Wimbledon five times and the US Open five times. In the Davis Cup, I have the world record. I have an Olympic medal. The reason it was my one last roar this year was that I felt I had already achieved everything and there were few things to play for. To participate in three more Grand Slams to get to 100 is a lifetime of sweat and toil and hard work. So I think that when you look back at my career, it was blessed. I will always be playing tennis. I will be playing tennis in some shape or form. Whether it is seniors or exhibition, whether it is world team tennis or league, whether it is playing for fun with my family. I will always have tennis in my day-to-day lifestyle. In terms of professional tennis, that is something we have to evaluate at the end of the year.
Away from tennis, are you pursuing any other professional career?
There is so much else to do. I can’t really speak about it right now but there is so much my team planned for the last three, four years. Right now in one context, this lockdown has given a realisation that I have to reinvent myself. So it’s very nice that I get to spend time with my family, get to enjoy quality time with them. I have never spent this much time at home in one long stretch as I have always been working for the last 20 years. Forty weeks a year travelling and touring non-stop. So I am really taking advantage of this time, spending time with my family. That being said, in terms of other opportunities, businesses and other passions I have had, my team has been working for the last four-five years to put things together. I am spending time to get that done. Because all of these are large projects and they need time and require my personal attention. I am enjoying that.
Any particular lockdown moment you would love to remember? Cooking...
I love to cook. I enjoy different kinds of cuisine obviously. Travelling on the tour it becomes a necessity and also you don’t usually have a kitchen everywhere you go. So I specialise in pasta and salad. Breakfast is one of my favourite meals. I can eat breakfast morning, noon or night. And I love making different kinds of breakfast. When it comes to serious cooking, those are the things I am really passionate about. When I finish with my tennis, I want to learn serious cooking. Take cooking classes. They have a Michelin chef cooking class. French patisserie is very interesting. The way they bake and make bread and pastries. There are so many fun things to do that in one context. I am really looking forward to that time as well. I always maximise whatever position I am in. I always make the best of it. No restaurant though. Cooking for my loved ones for sure.
How many hours do you train? Motivation an issue?
About three hours. Motivation is an issue. It is very difficult. It is something we all have to take stock of. Especially since we are not allowed to leave the house, we should ensure we get plenty of movement. Otherwise, we just sit down in one position on our phones, in front of the computer, or reading, watching Netflix and videos. There is so much out there that it is distracting. It is really important to get movement. Even if it is walking in a living room. One room to the other. Freehand exercises, core exercises, yoga meditation or breathing, now is the time to do. All professional athletes are doing a lot of fitness exercises. Sustainability is important. You have to be mentally and emotionally fresh. Even after lockdown, it will take a few weeks before professional sports are back. Plenty of time to sustain fitness levels but the fact is that we are not getting to play football, cricket, badminton or tennis now. Some tennis strokes might be a bit rusty. It might take a bit longer to fix that
Which is your most cherished moment? Grand Slam wins, Davis Cup matches/records or the Olympic medal?
So many cherished moments! It’s hard to pick. If I had to pick my Davis Cup wins, there are so many. If I have to pick every one of my Davis Cup wins, those were very special because I got to play for the tiranga (tricolour). I played for 1.3 billion people. Every one of my Grand Slam victories, all of them with different partners are very special. Then if you look at beating Pete Sampras in singles in New Haven in 1998; beating Roger Federer in singles in Indian Wells in 2001; winning the Newport Hall of Fame in 1998 was special. If I have to choose the most important one, that would be the Olympic bronze. That is really, really special. The first time they introduced the (Olympic) play-offs, it was quite a tough. Was to meet Sampras in the first round and most of my peers were saying draw was bad luck. But somehow, I felt Atlanta was magic. I worked my whole life for it. The day before the first match, Sampras had pulled out, they put Richey Reneberg (USA) in. So I beat him, then Nicholas Pereira in the second, then Thomas Enqvist and beat Renzo Furlan in quarters. In the semis, I injured my wrist. Andre Agassi played a passing shot when he was down 5-6 and 15-40, I pushed the ball to his backhand and he hit it as hard as he could right at my face. I felt I had every shot covered except that one. When he did, my hand hurt so badly that I didn’t realise until later that I had a tear in my wrist tendon. That was a tough one. I had to come back two days later to play Fernando Meligeni, one of my friends from Brazil. To play him in the bronze play-off was tough because he was in good form. I was down a set to him and then I came back and won. After years of hard work and perseverance, I could emulate what my dad did, win an Olympic medal for India.
Parents’ role in sportsperson’s development?
Parents’ role in sportsperson’s development? Parents have a huge role to play. That emotional fitness starts with parents. It is also important to know that the coaches the parents choose are very crucial. When you choose the right team, you choose the right coach, right fitness trainer. It is important to let the coaches do their job. The parents do not have to be the coach. They don’t have to be the fitness trainer or the physiotherapist. The parent needs to be the confidante. Parents can be the handling companion, support system. The unconditional love every parent gives is something every child needs. It’s a huge support. I am what I am is because of my parents. I am so blessed. I have an unbelievable support system and I’m lucky. Not only the genetics but all the skills they have taught.
On frying pan challenge and Mahesh Bhupathi
It’s all about hand-eye coordination. It’s not so difficult when you are a professional athlete. Mahesh Bhupathi and I have had some good banter. We stay in touch and it’s nice that we can communicate and bring some happiness to people especially in a time like this when it is needed.
How Leander Paes feels while playing at Bangalore?
“For me, playing in Bangalore is an emotion. It’s one of those few pockets [in India] that plays a lot of tennis, has a rich heritage, and the fans are very educated. This is one of my favourite hunting grounds and the Davis Cup doubles win against Serbia (2014) where we came back from two sets to love down is one of my most memorable ones.”
What Leander Paes thinks about Sumit Nagal's spirited fight against the legendary Roger Federer in the first-round of the US Open?
"It was a fantastic performance. I have seen Sumit for many years now. Even before he won the junior Wimbledon doubles, I had worked with him in the Canada," Paes told reporters.
What Paes think about Paes playing?
"Not just that his backhand strokes which are so nice, not just that his legs which are so powerful, I felt he had tremendous talent. The real challenge for Sumit is going to be to sustain that quality performance," he said.
What Leander Paes think about Rajkumar Ramanathan?
"Likewise if you see his contemporaries like Ramkumar Ramanathan, he had a great run in Newport (Hall of Fame Classic grass court tournament) last year when he got into the final and should have won the final but lost to Steve Johnson. "Ram has had some good results in challengers, had some decent results in 250s, he did really well in Maharashtra Open where he played against Marin Cilic.
What Paes thinks about Prajnesh?
"Likewise you see Prajnesh (Gunneswaran), tally lefty, big serve, he's also developing well and had some really good results. For all this boys, the consistency of their performance is really the call of the day."
Tell us about your partners in doubles and mixed doubles?
I've been so blessed to have some of the greatest partners anyone can ask for. I don't need to rattle off the names of Navratilova, Hingis, Stepanek and Mahesh.
How do you choose your partners in doubled and mixed double games?
Choosing partners is something that I instinctively know. It comes from the fact that I know my strengths and weaknesses. It is more important to know your weaknesses. And then to find a partner whose strengths make up for your weaknesses, and my strengths make up for his or her weaknesses. I think the compatibility of two partners is very important.
How communication is important in doubles and mixed doubles
Communication is really important. Because when you are playing at Wimbledon, and you are 4-4 in the fifth set, you have to make a split-second decision on where you are serving and how you are planning to cover a certain part of the court
How your team help you to be motivated?
“My team is trying to convince me to continue. My dad is always after the team asking ‘Has he done his gym? Has he done his stretching? Has he done his practice?’ My team is actually motivated for me to play the 2021 season.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Every time I step on court, I feel like this may be my last match. Whether it was at [the Australian Open in Melbourne], [at Tata Open Maharashtra] in Pune last week or in Bangalore now. It is going to go throughout the year. I feel like playing in the Grand Slams, hopefully in the Olympics [in Tokyo], in the ATP Tour. It is really about going out there and doing the best I can
What was one of your best matches?
One of them was in my bronze medal match when I played Meligeni with a torn wrist tendon - it was 60% torn. I was like bandaged up completely. And after I lost that first set, I just went into a trance. And that whole second and third set I was just in a zone. I remember a butterfly sat on my racquet in the beginning of the second set. And I lived my whole life to play the Olympics – both my parents are Olympians – and from that time that little mascot – I called her my mascot – she was actually red, blue and white. The butterfly sat on my racquet and I went into a zone for two sets. And next thing I know I have the medal around my neck.
How Leander Paes takes care of his body to stay young?
“The other side is your diet, everything that you put into your mouth and system will have an effect. “I eat good fats but say no to ghee and butter. At my age (46), rehab and rest are very important. Yoga, meditation, pilates, breathing techniques are what I do.“My father changes my fitness routine every three months. The exact number of minutes that I spend on my workouts keeps varying as per my need. For best results, I mix the Indian philosophy of meditation and yoga with the Western fitness training regimen including gym work, cardio, abs, core, etc.“The difference between being in the top-100 and the top-10 is the physical and mental attributes. I have also learnt a lot from my various doubles and mixed doubles partners over the years. What I do is learn these lessons, and tweak them to suit my needs. This way, I have figured out what works for my body, goals and schedules. Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis are two partners who have taught me the most.”
How Leander Paes keeps his soul refreshed?
“Be happy as best as you can be, no matter what life throws at you. My mantra is quite simple. I like it that way. The more you complicate things, the more you are not at ease.”
What's your thought on the postponement of India VS Pakistan Davis Cup tie from September to November?
I am not sure any of us know what is going to happen. They have postponed it to November and might have to pick a venue, I think
During the India Pakistan tie in 2006, your daughter was born. Can you share the moment?
It was a very interesting time for me as my daughter was born around that same weekend. “I was with the team practising during the day and sleeping in the hospital in the night to make sure that my daughter was okay.
What was the toughest task of the 2006 tie?
It was a daunting task as I had not played singles in a long time. I was just entrusted this position, which I had to handle. I remember after being two sets to love up, I started getting cramps. I was not used to playing in the heat and humidity of Marine Drive. My cheeks were bleeding because of all the wrist-band rubbing and sand in the air. I got cramps in the beginning of the third set.
How did you manage the situation of the 2006 tie?
The team helped me manage a tough situation. Before the fifth set I took a toilet break and took a wash. I was getting cramps all over. It was just perseverance — mind over matter. When you are out there in a sport like tennis, you are alone, there is no one to help you hold the racquet.
What was your experience of winning the tie?
I knew I was a break up and had to maintain that lead. That was one of the hardest Davis Cup ties in my career. I was not only able to win it for India but also win it in the week that my daughter was born.
How do you feel about saying goodbye to the Australian Open?
I’m getting a few goosebumps man, it’s starting to hit me a little bit. It’s been a long ride. It’s been a good ride. It’s been a fun ride.
When did you play first in Australia?
My first year here was in 1989. The first Grand Slam I played was here in Australia on court No 21. In 1990, I was in the junior boys singles final.
Could you have played better in the second round of the mixed doubles tournament?
In every tournament I’ve played in, there’s been that one match which has been a tough match. I knew if you get past that match, you turn a corner, and if you do that, you’re a straight run to win the title. Playing Bethanie (Mattek-Sands) and Jamie (Murray), they’re real veterans of doubles, played great battles. They know how to win. I knew today was going to be a tough one and that we had to turn a corner. If we could, the title would have been a realistic choice. In the beginning of the match, when I went for a backhand smash, I came down really awkwardly on my ankle and I rolled it, so that was a tough start. I was able to go past it after speaking to the trainer and we worked past that. In the second set, we had a great chance when we broke to go up 5-3. We would have had a great chance if it went to the match tie-break having already won one. So, if we won the second set, we would have been in with a great chance but it goes to show what a champion team they are.
What are your thoughts on your team and your career?
Playing in 2020 has been five different decades and that is mind-boggling. It still hasn’t fully sunk in yet because I’m being professional right now about the match. It will sink in at some point but I’m just very blessed to have a great career. Blessed to have a great team behind me.
How do you wish to play in 2020?
I’m going to do this year the best that I can. I’m going to do it the usual style of playing my heart on my sleeve and giving it everything I got - celebrating with my partner, celebrating with my fans, and my team. The personality that I have, I’m going to be the best that I can. If I’m going to this One Last Roar, I’m going to do it the best way I know. If I win a Grand Slam along the way, that would be the best way to go out.
What's your tagline for the final year?
Playing the last year through 2020, I have named it One Last Roar to pay respect to everyone who has been behind me.
Is 2020 an emotional year for you?
It’s obviously going to be emotional. Like I said, it still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. But, it’s going to be an emotional year. Especially next week, when I play in Pune. I already know the rumblings. People are trying to keep certain surprises secret but I know about the rumblings that are going on. To play in India and for India all these years, to play for 1.4 billion people and to represent the country has been my greatest honour. To go back for one last roar is not going to be easy.
Tell us about your Double partners?
Mahesh Bhupathi and I grew up as young boys together and were able to prove to India that we could be champions. Radek Stepanek was one of the most intelligent partners I had. Martina Navratilova taught me about the longevity of life and playing and staying fit and healthy. She is family to me, as is Martina Hingis. We’ve had some amazing memories together. Cara Black, Martin Damm.. the list goes on. I’ve played with 130 men’s doubles partners approximately and I think Jelena is my 26th mixed doubles partner.
What was your best Olympic moment?
Standing on the Olympic podium and watching the Indian flag going up was my most memorable moment. Growing up as a kid, I would polish my dad’s medal every Sunday and eventually, winning that medal was one of the only dreams I had as a young boy. If I had won 29 Grand Slams but hadn’t won an Olympic medal, it would feel incomplete. If I had won 1 Olympic medal and won 0 Grand Slams, it would feel complete.
How did you feel about playing for India at the Olympic?
Playing in the Olympics is the epitome of an athlete’s career and playing for India, especially with 1 billion-plus people, there is a big responsibility to motivate people and to prove to young kids that if I could be a champion despite not being tall or not having a big serve, they could be champions in anything they want.
What is your agenda after the playing career?
Despite knowing that I have another year or two left in me, there are a lot of things lined up for me next year. There are many different things I’m looking at. Motivational talks, corporate speaking, life building, career-enhancing, coaching, books, movies, commentary — there are a lot of options. However, with so many options, you can’t do everything. You have to pick the right one. It’s about choosing the right one and do it well.
Do you have any regrets in your career?
I think being a perfectionist and being an athlete who’s had a big career, you remember the ones you lost. You remember those moments that you could have turned the match around. You remember those situations where if you had done things differently, you would have been on the right side of the result. Overall, if you look at five decades of playing and 30 Grand Slams here, I can’t ask for much more. I really can’t.
What did tennis teach you?
When you’ve had a career this long, the real essence of what tennis means to me is education. No book in any curriculum could teach me how to be a student to all these partners I’ve had. Tennis has been a phenomenal education for me and I choose to take these skills and spread the knowledge around the world.
How do you feel after playing the last match on Indian soil?
It’s a bittersweet experience to eventually call it a day. However, I will be very much associated with the game,’’ Leander said during a chat on the phone with Gulf News. “It will be a payback time for me now as my aim is to make India a healthy nation and help build future champions.
Is there anything more you would like to achieve in future?
There is nothing left for me to achieve. I made my Grand Slam debut as a junior in Australian Open in 1989. So in effect, I was fortunate to be playing there across five decades — the 1980s, 1990s, the new millennium, 2010 decade and now 2020.
What do you have to say to Indians regarding the Covid19 lockdown?
Cooking it up during curfew, trying to be an innovative to keep the boredom away. Today, one billion-plus Indians came together to fight against COVID-19. Well done! India, coming together as a community will keep our cities safe.
What do you have to say to the world community on the COVID-19 crisis?
This is to calling out all my friends around the world also to come together as a global community to keep our cities safe. Stay at home, wash your hands, enjoy your time with your kids, your parents and your loved ones and do the things that you always love to do. Cook it up as well! Be safe
What Leander Paes revealed about the time he knew nothing about playing tennis?
“Anand Amritraj was impressed by how I kept chasing the ball all the way even to the doubles court. I certainly know my tennis strokes have never impressed anybody,”
What Leander Paes shared about Andre ?
“Just as Andre [Agassi] said as well: “[imitates] ‘He is a bunch of kinetic energy who does not know how to hit a tennis ball.’”
What Leander said about Akhtar Ali?
“Akhtar [Ali] sir gave me a nickname ‘chalaaki’ (cunning) because he felt I played too many drop shots all the time,”
How Leander explained his situation to Akhtar Ali?
“I kept on trying to explain to him that I don't have a good tennis technique. I started tennis late. So, obviously, I have to do ‘chalaaki’ to win points,"“You hit drop shots, let them come forward, and then you hit the lob,”
You are well-known for your serves and volleys, but at the time as you messaged me a short while ago, it was all about jhadu and pocha....
But jokes apart, how has it been because the family has been separated. You are in Mumbai with your Father, but the rest of the family is scattered. So, how are you managing? How are you holding up?
But if we are realistic Lee, the world will slowly get back to normal, but there will be travel restrictions. There will be quarantine regulations, all of that across the world. Do you honestly look at the Tennis season resuming before the end of August at the moment the way things stand?
What would you advice sport persons to deal with anxiety because they don't know what the future holds for them?
We will talk about challenges, Federer had his bully challenge, you had come up with your version of the wallet challenge and what that unexpectedly threw up. Nevertheless, what made all the Indian Tennis fans going gaga was you and Mahesh Bhupathi, your old tennis partner coming together and trying to impress each other with you and your fans and who's the better one, you had a no-loop volley kind of a challenge. The competitive juice between you two still rages it seems after all these years and good to see you two egging each other on.
But you spoke of your journey to the Olympics, bit of a double whammy for you as well because the Olympics is something you wanted to achieve this year, with the event now getting postponed for a year, that is also going to factor somewhere in your decision, isn't it?
You know, you spoke about the Olympics and the Olympic dream, but there are others like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Mary Kom for whom this could be the last Olympic. Even someone like Tiger Woods, who said that he wanted desperately to play in at least one Olympics in his career. They are all going to go through the same sort of emotional stress about pushing their bodies for one more year as you mentioned.
Let's talk about Indian sports. The Indian Sports can be divided into two periods, the period till 1980, which is when the great run of the Hockey Team ended from 1928 at the Olympics, your Father was in one of those teams that won medals in Hockey and then the second period in Indian Sports started post 1996 which was the rise of the individual sports person. No one gave you a chance going into Atlanta, but you went out there. You were very good in Doubles but you won a Singles medal. You were one of the biggest names in Indian sports at that time. When you look back at your career, is that the greatest triumph of your career?
We had spoken to Sushil Kumar, the only Indian to win two Olympic medals, Yogeshwar Dutt, even Karnam Malleshwari who followed up after you and everyone told that they were all inspired by seeing you on the Olympic Podium in Atlanta to go there. Today, we have so many talented athletes who are preparing themselves to win Gold. On the other hand, we have people like you you and Mary Kom. Isn't Indian sport is slowly reaching that explosion of getting to the level where everyone can be a World beater?
Who has been the best tennis player, male or female, that you have seen over the course of your career?
You have played a lot singles and doubles as well, so who was your most difficult opponent or opponents?
You spoke about the Olympics and what it meant to you but what was your most memorable triumph outside the Olympics?
Favourite tournament outside Wimbledon which is obvious?
Your biggest regret of your career?
Best Men's double partner ever?
Best Mixed-doubles partner?
The most important match win which you will always treasure?