Moments after winning the US Open men’s doubles trophy-his 10th Grand Slam title-Indian ace Leander Paes said he wasn’t sure of playing in the finals as he was carrying a sore shoulder.
Paes had injured his elbow ten days back while playing mixed doubles in the tournament but the ace Indian overcame the pain and combined with Czech Lukas Dlouhy to outlast Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the men’s doubles final on Monday.
“I’m a little numb at the moment, because it’s just been a mammoth effort over the past two weeks. But when I woke up I didn’t know if I could get through the match, there was so much pain. I’ve been carrying a really, really sore shoulder,” said the Indian.
“Every time I touched the ball there was so much pain that I didn’t believe that I could actually go through the match and finish. But I knew it was my job to endure the pain and be steady,” he said.
With this year’s French Open doubles crown, partnering with Dlouhy, already in his pocket, Paes felt the current season is the best in his 18 years of professional career.
“This is possibly the best year I’ve ever had on the tour,” said Paes, who turned pro in 1991.
“Today’s match was of real high quality. Well done,” added Paes with the satisfaction that he and Dlouhy had erased memories of last year’s final loss in the same tournament.
Paes was all praise for his partner Dlouhy, who led from the front as the former was carrying an injury.
“I just have to say I’m blessed with a great partner in Lukas. He seems to play on the big moments, you know. That’s the important part, is when you have a partner that recognizes that I was injured today and I was hurting and he just stepped up to the plate and just said, I’m going to do it,” he said.
“You just be solid with me today, and I’m just gonna take over and do it for you. And he did. That’s the beauty about doubles, is that you have another brother there to rely on.
Today this Grand Slam, I think especially today, was just Lukas’ match. He played like an MVP for sure.”
The Indian ace also felt that he and Dlouhy have been shaping up into becoming the best doubles pair in the world.
Lukas stepped up to the plate today right in the beginning of the second set and he said, I’m serving. He showed amazing maturity to lead the team. I think that’s the beauty of the best doubles teams in the world. One player leads sometime.
“And like today, Lukas led and I followed. I think the key is in our understanding, it doesn’t matter who leads or who follows. We both kind of are together. That’s why we won today, really.”
Paes was happy that he won his Grand Slam number 10 but said “it is just a number, the joy of competing and prevailing against odds is what keeps spurring me on and not the desire to further fill up my trophy cabinet.”
Dlouhy said his on-court understanding with Paes was crucial to winning their second Grand Slam title of the year.
“It’s a great feeling to win it and to play with him on the same side. It’s really amazing to play with him such a big tournament, finals. I have been in two finals already here before, and today was a special match.
“We were fired up and we were playing well and like a team. Doesn’t matter if I play good or he’s playing good, we are like team, and we won it like team. That’s it. It’s an amazing feeling for me to win my second Grand Slam in the year.
What can I say? It’s perfect,” said Dlouhy.
Paes bettered his score against his estranged friend and former partner Bhupathi by moving ahead with a 10-9 score in matches where they have featured as rivals.
Asked about facing Bhupathi on the other side of the court, Paes said, “Usually when I and Mahesh face-off it’s a tough match. This final was no different. It’s just that when it goes down to the wire what matters is the ability to raise ones game and put the other team under pressure.
“I am glad we managed to do that in the middle of the second set.”
The only time they had locked horns in a final before today was in 2004 at Dubai where Bhupathi had the last laugh but Paes holds a 3-1 edge over him in Grand Slam meetings.