as a tennis professional, he should know.
Leander Paes (R) and Radek Stepanek (L) of the Czech Republic pose with their trophy with the of the Unisphere in the background after winning their US Open men's doubles final. (AFP Photo)
Paes began his trophy collection at the US Open with the boys’ junior title in 1991 and, on Sunday, added the latest silverware when he claimed the men’s doubles title, at 40, with Radek Stepanek.
Paes and Stepanek overcame Bruno Soares and Alexander Peya, who were playing their first Grand Slam final and looked overwhelmed by the stage, 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 10 minutes.
“This one is actually really, really special,” Paes said.
He was talking at the post-match conference after becoming the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title.
“For me, this one is probably even more special than the (2012) Australian Open win. In Australia, I was going for a career Slam, and that was something that Radek worked so hard to do. We achieved it; he did it for me. This one really means a lot to me, because through this year we both had to handle a lot of adversity.”
The Indian was hinting at his problems on the personal front and Stepanek having to undergo spinal surgery in February.
But the intensity they played with in New York, especially in the semifinal win over Mike and Bob Bryan-which was half the battle won going for the title-and the joy in celebrating victories with the crab dance masked the troubles of the season gone by.
Going into the final, Paes had won only one ATP title: Winston-Salem Open with Daniel Nestor, and had a win-loss record of 18-12. The team had not had enough court time, but their camaraderie and chemistry saw them through.
As was evident in the final of last year’s Australian Open, the 34-year-old Stepanek has added another shot of energy into Paes’ game.
On Sunday, Paes was introduced onto the court by former player and television commentator Luke Jensen as the “best individual doubles player” in the world. It is one hell of a reputation he has built and lived up to, having delivered Grand Slam win in each of the past three decades: 14 majors with seven different partners.
And there are no hints of slowing down. “Age is something that we look at and we smile,” Paes said.
“We chat with you guys and smile about it, because, you know, you guys tease us about it, which is nice.
For us, we really take it very seriously to go out and get better every day and to push each other.
“Today Radek helped me to get to be the oldest man or the oldest tennis player to ever win a Grand Slam in the Open Era. I thank him for that, and we are definitely not done. I’m going after 41 now, 42, and then 43.”