At 44, Leander Paes doesn’t have retirement plans

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Kolkata: Despite not being picked for the Indian Davis cup squad and with form not by his side, tennis veteran Leander Paes is in no mood to quit the game. The oldest man to win a Grand Slam and also an Indian great, Leander feels he has come to a point in his career where he does not need to prove anything to anyone.

Paes, who holds the record for most doubles win (42), was not picked for the Davis cup  by the non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi, who succeeded Anand Amritraj as the new captain.

According to the 44-year-old, the love for the game still makes him play with passion.

“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, my career speaks for itself. At this stage I play because I love my tennis. I’m very passionate about being an athlete and the lifestyle it incorporates,” said Paes at an event in the city on Thursday.

Coming from a family with a sports background, Paes said that representing the country at the international stage has always been his most proud moments. “I’ve done my best when I’ve played for my flag. It gives me great joy and pride to play for my country, city and people,” he said.

He further continued, “Even when I played individually, like in the Wimbledon I’ve played for my flag. On a global stage you always want to see your flag fly high. You speak about your country. I’ve been very blessed, I’ve had a long career and now I play with a lot of passion.”

Having brought up legends such as Bhupathi and Bopanna, Leander believed that Ravi Purav is another champion on the cards. “We (Purav and I) have played two tournaments together and now we have to work very hard. There are many things we have to work on. Give me five-week time and I will tell you how good is Purav. I’m doing homework now,” said the winner of 18 Grand Slam titles.

“I’ve three months left to lift my ranking and for me to play with an Indian boy is very special especially at this stage of my career. By November end I will finish my season and then I will see about next year. I really want to do well to get my ranking back on top,” continued Paes, who is at present languishing at world number 62 and is desperate to improve his position.

He also enjoyed a good camaraderie with Swiss star Martina Hingis and also was fairly successful together but the both have parted ways and the Indian said that he will have a new mixed doubles partner for the 2018 season.

Praising West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for transforming the Salt Lake stadium into a world class venue, Paes said, “Didi has done a phenomenal job with the Salt Lake Stadium. It looks fantastic, the greenery, the shine. It has become the pride of Kolkata now.”

Described as  ‘a flying jumping bean’ by Tennis legend Andre Agassi in his autobiography ‘Open’, Paes will aim to make the country proud and win more honours to re-establish his legacy once again in the world of tennis.

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