Chennai: Fourteen Grand Slam trophies, an Olympic medal and 53 titles on the ATP tour makes him one of the greatest tennis players India has ever produced but veteran Leander Paes refused to be labelled as ‘great’ on Monday.
“I don’t have a great serve, a great forehand or backhand. I just do things with my partners, whoever it is,” the 40-year-old star said in a modest self assessment, on the eve of Chennai Open.
Paes said he dreams of winning more Grand Slams in 2014 and wants to compete in 2016 Brazil Olympics before retiring. “I will consult the right people at the right time on retirement and making way for young talents and at the same time set a solid Indian team. I think you are reading my mind. I’ll come back to you when I take a decision on this,” Paes said.
Paes said he was concerned about the wide gap in the rankings of the Indian players and that has to be “bridged”. “More than their talent, technique and skills, our players need to drastically improve upon their physical fitnesses. The kids abroad are six feet tall or more these days. The way they run and stay fit is phenomenal.”
Paes had a great start to his doubles career here at the Chennai Open in the early 90s. He began his doubles journey with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi and won three titles in a row, and then two more in 1997 and 2011. But he said he doesn’t consider himself a great player.
The Calcutta-born Paes, who was a trainee at the BAT Academy in Chennai (run by the Amritrajs), said: “This is sort of home coming for me, as I learnt my basics here from the age of 12 to 17. I am here because I want to win more Grand Slams and play in the Olympics. To achieve this, I need to stay fit and healthy.”
Paes added: “There is no dearth of talent in India. But they have to focus on staying fit physically and mentally.”
On his being paired with different partners, especially with Czech players, he said: “They meet my expectations. They are all hard working, disciplined.”