Kolkata, December 11
Indian tennis icon Leander Paes on Friday said he was preparing hard to participate in next year’s Tokyo Games to make it a record eighth straight Olympic appearance.
On the Christmas Day of 2019, Paes had announced his ‘One Last Roar’ tagline, calling 2020 to be his last season as a professional player, culminating with the Tokyo Olympics.
“None of us then imagined that we would get hit by such a big pandemic. It has made all of us introspect…,” said Paes.
“But after this long break, I feel happy. I’ve no doubt in my mind that physically, mentally and emotionally I would be ready.
“For me it’s very important to ensure that India’s name stays in the history books and that is why I’ve continued my career for 30 years.”
Paes would turn 48 by the time Tokyo Olympics, slated to begin on July 23, happens but he said age was just a number and he had the motivation to ensure that India’s name stayed forever in the record books.
“I already have the record at seven and I’ve the motivation that if I can push that up to eight Olympics, my belief is that India forever will stay in the history books as the most number of Olympics played in tennis. I’m hoping Tokyo comes around, the event happens.”
Paes, who had won India its first and only Olympic medal in tennis at 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said he’s working hard to win another medal.
“I’m working very hard. It’s not just about participation. You guys have known me, if I’m going to the Olympics, I’m going for winning and not just for putting up the numbers,” he said.
“Age is just a number. The tennis ball does not know the age of a human being hitting the ball. It understands power, spin. It’s what we do matters.”
Asked whether he would prefer Divij Sharan or Rohan Bopanna to partner in the Olympics, Paes said: “When it comes to the Olympics, regardless of which partner I play with, as long as India represents itself to get the world record of eighth appearance, I’m fine.”
Paes said be it Rohan, Divij or Ankita Raina in the mixed doubles he’s fine with anyone.
“Like I’ve done in the past, I’ve played with Mahesh, Rohan, Sania in the Olympics… Everything that I’ve done is for the flag, for our community,” said Paes.
The winner of 18 Majors further said he’s eyeing another milestone of making it a century of Grand Slam appearances in the main draw.
Paes already has a Davis Cup record of most doubles victories at 45 which he had achieved at Zagreb on March 7 this year.
Partnering Bopanna, Paes beat Croatia’s Mate Pavic and Franko Skugor 6-3 6-7 (9) 7-5 in the Davis Cup Qualifiers.
“I didn’t rest until I got all the world records – in Davis Cup, the Olympics and now embarking on finishing playing my 100 Grand Slams,” said Paes, who is three shy of the feat.
“I’m still waiting for the calendar to come out. The Australian Open has already been pushed back. I still don’t know whether it will happen or not…
“We are hoping that the vaccines are distributed fast so all of us can get back to our daily lives,” Paes concluded. PTI