An emotional Leander Paes did not hide his disappointment after losing in the first round of men’s doubles competition in the Rio Olympics on Saturday, saying he has “become a soft target” and that is the reason why people are “taking potshots” at him.
Paes’s dreams of winning a second Olympic medal was dashed as he and partner Rohan Bopanna made an inglorious exit in the opening round, losing in straight sets to the Polish pair of Marcin Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot 4-6 6-7 (6-8) in Rio de Janeiro.
“It should have been about celebrating a career. I am in a position of being the soft target. So a lot of guys wanna (sic) take shots at me. Fine, go for it. I am also just another human being, trying my best. But Leander is soft target. I will keep going as I am resilient. I know a lot of stories are being fed,” Paes, who is playing his record seventh and probably last Olympics, said.
Read more: No bed for Paes at Rio Games Village
“Not many people understand what it takes to win one Grand Slam. Not many people understand what it takes to win 10 Grand Slams. Not many people understand what it takes to win 18 Grand Slams. Not many also understand what getting to seven Olympics takes.
“May be how do I view it, I may be wrong, am asking for help. May be you all can tell me how to view it. May be you pull Lee down to this level so that you can understand what it takes,” the 43-year-old tennis star, who has 18 Grand SLam titles (doubles and mixed doubles combined), said.
Read more: Paes-Bopanna knocked out in first round
Paes, a bronze medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Games, saw his fight get over in just 84 minutes on Saturday, as not for once did the Indian pair look like having forged a winning combination. His campaign ended within two days of his arrival in the Brazilian city.
The controversies leading up to the first round match also did not do any good to the Paes-Bopanna pair as there was a lack of on-court chemistry between them. To top it, there was one practice session where the duo was hardly seen talking to each other.
Questions being raised about Paes’s delay in joining the squad after playing the World Team Tennis and subsequent reports of his not getting a bed in the earmarked apartment in the Games Village only made matters worse.
(With PTI inputs)