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Leander in US hospital with brain lesion

Calcutta, Aug. 20: Leander Paes, the country’s top tennis player, was admitted to a hospital in the US yesterday with a brain lesion.

His father, Vece Paes, a hockey Olympian and a doctor himself, said: “It is an acute problem and there is anxiety, but no cause for alarm. He is responding to anti-inflammatory drugs. He is much better.”

Leander checked himself into the emergency room of a hospital near his home in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday after severe headaches for three days. Yesterday, he was admitted to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, among the best in the US.

A statement from the Anderson Center said multiple tests are being conducted to determine the specific cause of the lesion, and results are expected in a few days. A brain tumour has not been ruled out.

Dr Paes, who left for Orlando tonight, said he spoke to Leander in the morning and the 30-year-old doubles specialist sounded chirpier than he has in recent days. “He had felt a lot depressed and lonely last night,” his father said.

People close to him have reached his bedside. Friend and actress Mahima Chaudhary and personal trainer Sanjay Singh are with him, as are some local acquaintances.

A 4-mm cyst, medically called a “space-occupying lesion” in the left posterior of the head, would keep Leander out of action for a month, Dr Paes said. This makes his participation in India’s Davis Cup world group qualifying fixture against the Netherlands uncertain. Leander has always given his best while playing for the country.

“He has deferred all tennis competition at least till end-September, which includes the US Open and the Davis Cup tie,” Dr Paes said.

Leander has won 27 men’s doubles titles. Earlier this year, he teamed up with the legendary Martina Navratilova to triumph at the Australian Open as well as at Wimbledon.

His victories in the 1999 and 2001 French Open and the 1999 Wimbledon came with long-time partner Mahesh Bhupathi. The two were to reunite at an ATP tour event this week at Long Island, New York.

Bhupathi told The Telegraph: “I was dumbstruck on hearing from Leander about his brain problem… (but) if anyone can come out of this crisis with flying colours, it’s him.”

While playing his second-round match in a tournament at Cincinnati last Wednesday with Czech partner David Rikl, Leander suffered spells of vision-loss and giddiness. He collapsed while trying to retrieve a ball and was attended to by ATP medical personnel.

Leander continued the match after a brief break but lost it in straight sets. After returning home in Orlando, he consulted doctors and a magnetic resonance imaging revealed a lesion.

“Doctors first thought that he was suffering from dehydration. But as the headache persisted he again got in touch with the doctors who advised him an MRI. The test detected lesion in the brain,” Dr Paes said.

He did not believe there would be any immediate need for surgery.

“It is not a desperate situation. The medical results are still awaited, it could be due to infection which is prevalent in India.”

Clarence Brown, an official of the hospital, told PTI: “Paes is stable. We are testing mainly for bacterial infection.”

“It would not be proper to make any comments before the results are known, but a tumour is not ruled out.”

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