Paes looking forward to ‘tough tie'

Dream Run: Leander Paes and his doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi are on a 22-match winning streak in the Davis Cup. Photo: V. Ganesan

Dream Run: Leander Paes and his doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi are on a 22-match winning streak in the Davis Cup. Photo: V. Ganesan  

Leander Paes tried on a blazer, egged on his young hitting partners into running harder and complimented Rohan Bopanna on a particular shot the Banglorean had pulled off during the U.S. Open doubles final, all within a span of 90 minutes spent on centre court at the SDAT Tennis Stadium here on Tuesday.

Slipping into the black garment for size, Paes found it too confining.

“Are you sure it's not Somdev's,” he enquired, handing the jacket back, “I have no chance of fitting into this.”

Paes, 37, India's most successful player overall (singles and doubles) in Davis Cup, arrived in Chennai on Tuesday afternoon as one half of the country's rampaging doubles pairing, which will take on Brazil in their World Group play-off from September 17.

“It's great to be back in the city where I learned my tennis. I'm quite accustomed to the weather and the conditions; just need a few days to get used to the surface,” he said.

No advantage

While saying that the surface offered no obscene advantage to the home side, Paes admitted that the doubles outfit comprising him and Mahesh Bhupathi had accumulated “quite a record” coming into the tie. The duo is on a 22-match winning streak in Davis Cup.

“Most tournaments on the Tour are played on clay or hard courts, so everybody is pretty used to these surfaces. Generally, the opening day of a tie is crucial and we have a few options in the team. Brazil is a tough side — they're all strong guys — and it's going to be a tough tie,” he said.

In his 21st year of playing at the Davis Cup, Paes said he now worked “twice as hard as earlier” on fitness to get the same results, but that it was all worth it since, to him, representing the country constituted the pinnacle of achievement.

“I am living out my dream. I'd still choose an Olympic or Commonwealth Games medal over winning a few more Grand Slams.

“My sense of responsibility to my captain and a billion people is more than my responsibility to just myself when I compete on the Tour,” he said.

Paes's victims

A multiple Grand Slam doubles winner, Paes's Davis Cup victims include Goran Ivanesevic, Jan Siemerink, Henri Leconte and a host of higher-ranked opponents that he sliced into slivers with lightning moves at the net.

The Orlando-based volley artiste is two matches shy of matching Ramanathan Krishnan's 50 wins in Davis Cup singles, an Indian record.

The proximity to the record, however, did not make Paes commit himself to playing singles against Brazil, dead rubber or not.

“I'll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he said.

A few practice games with young, local talent also made Paes realise that he had gradually transitioned into a representative of a different generation.

“These guys hit the ball way harder than I do. My style is quite old school. I mean, look at Vishnu Vardhan (his practice buddy across the net), his wingspan is crazy and his groundstrokes are like hell.”

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 6:17:42 AM |

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