A good show at the Tokyo Olympics and Davis Cup World Group Qualifiers was on Leander Paes’ mind when he decided that 2020 would be his ‘farewell year’ as a tennis player before he hangs up his racket, his father has revealed.
“The Davis Cup is in March. Then there is the Olympics in Tokyo. He wants to represent the country in those two events and give his all. He can then call it a day after playing tennis for 35 years,” Vece Paes told IANS on Thursday.
Leander Paes, 46, has announced that he would look to play a “few select tournaments” next year and travel with his team as he calls curtains on a career that started in 1991.
Paes has won 18 doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles and a bronze medal in the singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also competed in consecutive Olympics from 1992 to 2016, becoming the first Indian and only tennis player to compete at seven Games.
“He has been thinking about it for four-five months. He is 46 now. Age is catching up,” said Olympian Vece Paes.
“He wants to spend more time with his daughter (Aiyana). So he announced that 2020 will be his last,” he added.
Paes won a total of 54 doubles titles in a career spanning three decades. He is also the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup with 43 wins from 56 matches.
Last month, he bettered his own Davis Cup record by winning his 44th doubles match along with debutant Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan as India thrashed Pakistan in Nur-Sultan and booked a spot in next year’s World Group Qualifiers.
India will take on world number two Croatia for the Qualifiers in an away tie, to be held on March 6 and 7.
“I feel happy for him, sometimes you don’t have words. He has been a champion all along and has achieved everything,” said Vece Paes, a former India hockey player, who represented India in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Former Davis Cup coach Akhtar Ali, who has known Leander since his early days, said it will be a big loss for Indian tennis.
“He is a wonderful fellow. We all know what he has done for the country. It will be a big loss for tennis,” Akhtar told IANS.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) will also have special plans to felicitate Paes when he calls it a day next year.
“I will speak to him. We will definitely do something (to honour him),” AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee told IANS.
Born in Kolkata, Paes was ranked No. 1 in the doubles category along with celebrated partner Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom he won three Grand Slam crowns at the turn of the century.
The pair bagged 26 doubles titles between 1997 and 2011.
Kolkata, Dec 26 (IANS)