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Change of mind as Paes set to play in Chennai

sports Updated: Jan 02, 2015 01:30 IST
Sharmistha Chaudhuri
Sharmistha Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Leander Paes

Last year Leander Paes was quite certain he wouldn't be returning to the Chennai Open after a tiff with the organisers. The run-in had been regarding the organisers not footing the bill for his two extra rooms - a small sum of one lakh and 16 thousand. But come January 5, fans are likely to see the 41-year-old in action at the SDAT Stadium.

"I don't often get a chance to play in front of home fans and in India. For that, I'm willing to look beyond petty issues," said Paes, about his change of heart.

After a not-so-good 2014, Paes announced his partnership with South African Raven Klaasen for the new season. After winning the US Open with Czech Radek Stepanek in 2013, the duo failed to qualify for the World Tour Finals this season. His ranking, too, dropped outside the top-25 for the first time in 15 years. With just one win, 2014 has been a forgettable year for the Davis Cup hero.

Klaasen boasts of a strong backhand and big serve which Paes feels should work in their partnership. To be sharp for the year’s first Grand Slam in Melbourne, the Indo-South African duo need to be able to be in tandem. Thus, playing in Chennai prior to the Australian Open would be ideal to fine-tune the new partnership and be match-sharp. The Chennai doubles draw is one of the weakest in years. Paes is likely to do well and consequently get enough matches to boost confidence.

"I've heard he wants to play in Chennai. If he decides to play, we will welcome him," said Karti P Chidambaram, the chairman of the organising committee and vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association on Wednesday. "If he chooses to play, he still has plenty of time." The multiple Grand Slam champ has time till January 3 to sign in.

With two teams - the combination of Mahesh Bhupathi and Saketh Myneni and N Sriram Balaji with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan - already given wild cards, there is still time for four more teams to sign up.