Paes delivers an ace, says Chandigarh my favourite hunting ground | punjab$dont-miss | Hindustan Times
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Paes delivers an ace, says Chandigarh my favourite hunting ground

You never know when to say ‘never again’ with somebody like Leander Paes, the talisman of Indian tennis, but for now the wheel has come full circle. It started in the city in 1990, when a 17-year-old Paes made his Davis Cup debut against Japan, and at 43 this ‘homecoming’ to Chandigarh can give him much more than a win.

punjab Updated: Jul 14, 2016 13:51 IST
Shalini Gupta
Leander Paes and Anand Amritraj (in black) during a practice session ahead of the India-South Korea Davis Cup tie at the Chandigarh Club on Wednesday.
Leander Paes and Anand Amritraj (in black) during a practice session ahead of the India-South Korea Davis Cup tie at the Chandigarh Club on Wednesday. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT Photo)

You never know when to say ‘never again’ with somebody like Leander Paes, the talisman of Indian tennis, but for now the wheel has come full circle. It started in the city in 1990, when a 17-year-old Paes made his Davis Cup debut against Japan, and at 43 this ‘homecoming’ to Chandigarh can give him much more than a win.

Paes, mired in controversy around Rio Olympics doubles pairing with Rohan Bopanna, will be in action in the doubles tie on Saturday against South Korea. A good outing could give him and the Indian team valuable momentum for Rio.

The city’s courts have changed though. This time, the matches are being held at Chandigarh Club courts rather than the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA) courts in Sector 10

‘City easily my favourite venue’

As soon as he reached Chandigarh, a sense of nostalgia gripped Paes and he wrote on a social networking site: “Great to be back for Davis Cup duty in Chandigarh. I made my debut tie here in 1990.”

Leander Paes and Ramkumar Ramanathan during a practice session at the Chandigarh Club on Wednesday. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT Photo)

He added, “The memories that I have of Chandigarh are phenomenal. I remember a huge and vocal crowd cheered the Indian team, mostly from the local DAV College (opposite CLTA). I have had great outings in Chandigarh. I can say that it is easily my favourite hunting venue. I played my first International Tennis Federation match in Chandigarh. That too brings wonderful memories.”

Nice to be back, says Indian coach

Apart from Paes, Indian coach Zeeshan Ali also has fond memories of that 1990 Davis Cup match. Zeeshan was then an important cog in the Indian team and partnered Paes against the Japanese pair of S Ota and S Matsuoka. Recalling that game, the 46-year-old Ali said, “Tennis was greatly followed by people back then. The build-up to the game was tremendous. I also remember going down to Sector 17 when we got over with the practice. The crowd would back the Indian team. It is nice to be here again for the Davis Cup.”

Both Paes and Zeeshan grew up in Kolkata. “First it was Zeeshan’s uncle and then his father in the formative years in Kolkata, and now he himself is coaching me. I remember looking up to him on my Indian debut. I am sure he is going to be a big influence on me and Bopanna in the Rio Olympics next month as he will be our coach there,” added Paes.

Jaiveer Chopra, 10, a ball boy, said, “We might not see Paes coming to Chandigarh soon. It was amazing to see him and Bopanna doing well in practice.”