After US Open mixed doubles win, Leander Paes seems unstoppable

  • IANS, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 14, 2015 15:57 IST
Martina Hingis, left, and Leander Paes during the mixed doubles final of the 2015 US Open, against Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey, at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York, on September 11, 2015. (AP Photo)

The effervescent and age-defying Leander Paes did India proud once again by winning the mixed doubles title at the US Open on Friday with Swiss veteran Martina Hingis, bagging his 17th Grand Slam title and third mixed doubles crown of the season.

After a tussle that lasted one hour and 17 minutes, the 42-year-old Paes and Hingis -- his 24th mixed doubles partner -- beat unseeded Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 in the championship match to become the first mixed doubles team since 1969 to capture three of the season's four Majors.

With the title, Paes also became the first man to pocket nine mixed doubles titles, surpassing compatriot and former doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi, with a tally of eight. Paes' illustrious career, marked by a high level of consistency, unfliching devotion and undying spirit, now includes nine mixed doubles titles and eight doubles titles.

At an age where professional sportspersons look for their second innings, Paes seems unstoppable; he still has the hunger of a boy who was trained at the Britannia Tennis Academy run by the Amritraj family.

Paes, whose father Vece Paes was a member of the Indian hockey team which won a bronze medal in the 1972 Munich Olympics and mother Jennifer was a member of the national basketball team, began playing tennis at the age of five and still feels he has many things to learn, a trait that has been key to his longevity on the tour.

Paes, one of the best volleyers and a talented drop-shotter, made his presence felt in the tennis world by winning the Wimbledon Junior title way back in 1990 at age 17 - and this eventually proved to be the the turning point of his career. He remained the number one junior player in the world for some time at the start of his career.

And since then, Paes went on to represent India at various international tournaments. He brought glory to the country by winning many tournaments, of which the Davis Cup and the bronze medal in men's singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics are among the more standout achievements.

Paes, along with Bhupathi, created a sensation by winning many of the coveted Grand Slam doubles titles, including Wimbledon and the French Open. The doubles team of Paes and Bhupathi grew stronger in 1998, reaching the semi-finals of three Grand Slams -- the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open.

In the same year, Paes had two of his biggest singles results in the ATP tour. The first one came by winning an ATP singles title at Newport, and the second was beating the legendary Pete Sampras, 6-3, 6-4 at the New Haven ATP tournament in their only meeting throughout his career.

Paes' record at the Davis Cup has been simply superb, where he has grounded players much higher in ranking than him. He and Bhupati remained the number one doubles pair for a long time.

Easily one of India's most successful professional tennis players, Paes received the Arjuna Award in 1990, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, India's highest sporting honour, in 1996, the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian award, in 2014 for his outstanding contribution to tennis in India.

Despite facing several obstacles, such as a parasitic infection in his brain which threatened his playing career way back in 2003, or the controversies in his personal life, Paes has marched ahead, making the country proud.

In 2015, even though his doubles ranking has not been up and running, he has more than compensated by winning three mixed doubles titles at the Slams. And, with less than a year left for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the expressive and patriotic Indian seems all set to try and make a big run at the quadrennial extravaganza.

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