Goal is to complete career Grand Slam at French Open: Leander Paes

  • Krithika Gopalkrishnan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 06, 2015 01:18 IST

People thronged him to get a selfie with his recently won trophy at the Australian Open. Leander Paes, however, didn't flinch one bit. Looking dapper in a blue shirt and black trousers, Leander obliged. He finally settled down for a chat sipping on masala tea.


You have already made three finals and won a Grand Slam, your 15th one, and it's just been a month into 2015...
It's been a great start to the year. The partnerships were new. So I was a little nervous. Normally, I give it three months to see how it develops. But to see both bear fruit so fast is very encouraging. The hard work is paying off. With Raven (Klaasen) being in the finals of Chennai and winning in Auckland, we are No 1 in the world as a team. It's good to be back as No. 1 after quite a few years even though it's the starting of the year. And then with Martina Hingis, the first Grand Slam.

The name Martina seems to be a lucky one for you...
There definitely is a lucky charm, especially with Martina Navratilova. Every time she comes to the stand and watches me play, I never lose a match. My relationship with Navratilova has been really tremendous and I foresee that my friendship with Martina Hingis is going to be just the same.

You should bribe Navratilova to watch more of your matches.
(Laughs) You know it's amazing, I don't even tell her when I am playing. She just shows up. And then I try and be there for her in the important times of her life. (And he turns to his team and asks them to make a note to take a present for Navratilova because she just got married).

How did you convince Hingis to partner you?
That was harder than winning the Slam! She said no the first time. She was like 'no, no, I haven't played tennis for so long! It's too much of a responsibility'. So I was like the worse is you are going to lose. She said 'no, but you can win with so many others.' It took a lot of convincing from both our teams and after three years we decided to play together. The proof is in the pudding. And we have won it without losing a set. That's never happened in my career.

The French Open mixed doubles title is one thing missing from your resume. Do you think Hingis can make it happen?
The real goal is the French Open. That's next. I have a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles to finish there. So I am really going to be working on that. Time will tell if Hingis can make it happen.

How big a boost is this win in terms of your Rio preparation?
This journey started 25 years ago. I have been more active because I left home when I was 12 in 1986. I have been blessed, most athletes' careers last 10-12 years. I have been through eight generations of players and six Olympics is a long time. The most any tennis player has played is five. So to do seven next year would be a dream. This Australian Open title is a great continuation and I am looking forward to Rio.

How do you prepare yourself for a Grand Slam final?
It's more of homework where you study your opponents. I know myself unbelievably well. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I look at my team and prepare accordingly. So what we focus on before a Grand Slam final is do the right energetics, the right food, the right fluids, the right sleep, the right training and the right mental preparation. All of that has to come together. The night before the final, my homework is done. I don't sleep much because my preparation is so good, I almost want to get on the court and execute.

When you are in Mumbai, you are often seen playing football with journalists and friends...
We are playing tonight as well. It's part of my training. The cardio, the agility, the teamwork. For me sport is a way of life. I am fanatical about my fitness and a healthy living.

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