His favourite drink has evolved from a bubbly cola to the mellow Chinese tea, but on court the fizz is still alive in the life of Leander Adrian Paes.
On Saturday, after 23 years of chasing yellow fuzz across 78x36 rectangles, the 35-year-old won his ninth Grand Slam title. He and Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic defeated Wesly Moodie and Dick Norman 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the French Open doubles, his third French Open title.
He was hit on the eye during the first set, but stood his ground.
“Till now the plan is till London Olympics, beyond that I will have to see,” is his deadpan take when asked about just how long those dynamo legs will keep churning.
“I have over the years figured that there is much more to life than just winning tennis matches,” he says.
Daughter Aiyana has brought an anchor of stability in his life. “There has been nothing as compelling to run back home to before. Curio-usly enough, the tennis has also improved as I go into a match so much more relaxed now.”
The ease of being has also come from Paes’ heightened spiritualism. Always a sensitive man, partner Rhea Pillai has stoked Paes' connect with his religious side. As of now its translated into a more relaxed feline out there even if he no longer feels the need to pump his fists and strut around with monotonous regularity.
That Paes continues to win at the world stage is also a testimony to his disciplined training regime. He does not drink or smoke and has been so cautious at protecting his body that he only began to learn how to ride a motorcycle about a month ago.
No wonder he continues to be a ‘lion-man’ (or brave as a lion), the literal meaning of Leander.