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Miami hattrick, with a milestone

At the age of 38, when most of his contemporaries have given up the sport, Paes’ determination to excel hasn’t diminished in a career that took off way back in 1990. Sharmistha Chaudhuri reports.

sports Updated: Apr 02, 2012 01:39 IST
Sharmistha Chaudhuri

One could always praise the hard work Leander Paes does off court to stay fit and give players half his age a run for their money. At the age of 38, when most of his contemporaries have given up the sport, Paes’ determination to excel hasn’t diminished in a career that took off way back in 1990. But what’s interesting is this season has so far turned into one for achieving personal records for this star.

In January, he clinched his doubles career Grand Slam, after triumphing in the Australian Open. Two months later, he notched up his 600th doubles win in Indian Wells. And in Miami on Saturday, Paes became only the 24th player in ATP history to win 50 doubles titles. Giving him company on all three occasions was Czech partner Radek Stepanek.

QUALITY, QUANTITY http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/02_04_pg-19a.jpg

“It’s really, really special, 50 tournaments takes a little doing. 600 matches takes a little bit of doing,” said Paes after the Indo-Czech duo rallied to defeat second-seeded Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 in 82 minutes in the final of the Miami Masters.

What’s also interesting is this was Paes’ third consecutive title in Miami but with different partners. In 2010, he won with Lukas Dlouhy and last year with former partner Mahesh Bhupathi. A stat on the internet says he’s played with 87 partners in his over two-decade long career, but the man himself is not sure.

“Has there been so many?” Paes had asked, when he was in Delhi earlier this year. On Saturday, the only thing on his mind was to win more. “Having done a three-peat here in Miami is awesome. Next year, I hope to start another one. Over all these years of playing, I have got to thank many partners, many coaches... but most importantly my wonderful partner right now, Radek Stepanek,” he said after a celebratory jig.

BIG YEAR

With Davis Cup starting next week, all Indian eyes will be focused on the clay courts in Uzbekistan. With Bhupathi absent for the Namagan tie, Paes will partner Rohan Bopanna in the doubles rubber.

With the London Olympics being the highlight this year, the cherry on the cake would be a gold medal for this doubles specialist. “People tell me the doubles medal is not that important since I already have one in singles (bronze, Atlanta 1996). But I don’t buy that. I’d like two medals. Finally, I’ll be able to beat dad (Vece Paes won a hockey bronze in the 1972 Munich Games)!”

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