Chandigarh: Leander Paes on Tuesday said that the thought of winning a doubles medal in Olympics is close to his heart and he wants to fulfil the wish.
“I want to win the Olympic doubles medal. That’s my ultimate dream. I am looking forward to getting a good partner for the London Games. I also want to win a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles,” Paes told reporters after featuring in an exhibition match at Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA) stadium, here on Tuesday.
For the record, Leander won a bronze medal in the singles event in 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Paes said while cricket was definitely like a religion in India, over the years tennis has also grown in popularity.
“I think we need to open more tennis academies like the one we have in Delhi. We are also trying to start one in Mumbai, where I live,” Leander said.
Asked about the upcoming London Olympics, Paes said he was hoping to get a good partner to win a medal in the doubles.
“I do have a preference, but some conversations have to be private,” he said when asked if he had a specific partner in mind.
Commenting on the Indian tennis scene, Paes said it has a great future and apart from him and Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza, there were promising talents coming up. He heaped praise on players like Somdev Dev Varman and Yuki Bhambri.
“Indian tennis at the moment has a great mix of age and experience. It’s good time that the younger ones are developed in singles.”
Earlier, Paes and Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda defeated budding trainees of the CLTA, Anuj Bhatti and Ranjit Singh 7-6 in an exhibition match.
Paes said that rural talent was abundant in the country and should be tapped. “Rural people are tough, rugged, especially in Punjab and Haryana, where they have done so well in wrestling, hockey and other sports,” he said.
Paes, who will play the role of a mentor and brand ambassador of CLTA, will be visiting here once in a while. Paes is also trying to get a Spanish coach for the youngsters.
Meanwhile, replying to a question on cricketer Yuvraj Singh, Paes wished him a speedy recovery.
“We love him so much and want to see him back in action soon. Yuvi is a great player. He has conquered this ailment (cancer). (The) entire tennis fraternity wishes him good health,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was announced that the CLTA stadium will play host to India versus New Zealand Davis Cup tie.
Also, India were relegated to Asia Ocenia Group II in Davis Cup after Paes and Rohan Bopanna lost the doubles rubber against Uzbekistan last week.
The Indian team was banking heavily on Paes and Bopanna to pull one back after rookies Sanam Singh and Yuki Bhambri lost their respective singles matches.