India’s tennis star Leander Paes has clarified he will not wait another four years to make a record eighth Olympics appearance if the Tokyo Games next year do not take place.
Between 1992 and 2016, Paes has appeared at each Olympic event, making him the only Indian to feature in seven Olympic Games, and with the veteran tennis player announcing that 2020 would be his last year in professional tennis, the 46-year-old was keen to compete at the Tokyo Games, which has moved to 2021.
“If the Tokyo Olympics is cancelled, then I have already played my last Olympics in Rio. I am not going to wait for the next Olympics,” Paes told Purav Raja during an Instagram Live session.
Paes is a winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, of which eight are doubles and ten are mixed doubles titles. During the late 1990s, Paes formed a formidable partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi with both becoming the No. 1-ranked doubles player and winning three Grand Slams together. Later on, with Rohan Bopanna, Paes had several successful matches, most notably in Davis Cup matches, as the two last paired up in March.
“God, Mahesh had a killer backhand as an ad court player. It was world class but if I had to choose between two, I would definitely go for Rohan’s serve. His serve is one of the best I have seen on tour and it’s a weapon,” Paes added.
While Paes has tasted unprecedented success as a double’s player, he has been equally impressive in mixed doubles, getting paired with Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Martina Navratilova of Czechoslovakia.
With Hingis, Paes captured his seventh Grand Slam mixed doubles crown at the 2015 Australian Open and won the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon 2015. Two months later, Paes won the mixed doubles at the 2015 US Open with Hingis, defeating Sam Querrey and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in three sets. With Navratilova, Paes won the 2003 Wimbledon and Australian Open while finishing runner-up at 2004 Australian Open and 2005 French Open.
“Hingis complemented my style and I could play my natural game with her. She allowed me to be the leader and I could just take over the net. Navratilova, on the other hand, led me through and always guided me. She was the leader in my team,” Paes said of his former doubles partners.