The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has a surprise in store for fans at the World Group play-off tie against Serbia in Bangalore next weekend. India’s most accomplished Davis Cup player Leander Paes will step out for the flag once again even though he was not part of the initial squad announced by the federation.
Paes had earlier said he would like to be excused from national duty for this tie as he had personal commitments to take care of. Paes is in the middle of a messy custody battle for his daughter Aiyana with his estranged partner Rhea Pillai and the case comes up for hearing again next Friday. However, the veteran has figured that he can let his lawyers handle that as of now.
Initially reluctant to talk about a bit of news that the federation has chosen to keep under wraps for inexplicable reasons, Paes finally admitted: “I had some personal stuff to take care of but this chance to put India into the World Group has come after a long time and I want to do all that I can to help. I can’t let the team down.”
It has been reliably learnt that the initiative to persuade Paes was launched by AITA president Anil Khanna as the team felt that with the doubles maestro on board, India had a realistic chance of putting up a strong fight. “The captain (Anand Amritraj) said that the boys really wanted me to come on board. He outlined his strategy of taking on Serbia and I figured I must do my bit,” Paes added.
The relatively higher altitude of Bangalore (about 3000ft) makes the ball bounce higher and more unpredictably. These conditions are eminently suited for Paes’ lightening reflexes.
It is understood that the change in the lineup has already been conveyed to the International Tennis Federation.