Leander Paes has dropped elaborate hints that he has reached the business end of his glittering career even though he is ready to give his all for the flag under newly appointed non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi.
Asked if he will think of retiring if it gets to that, Paes replied:”You will see.”
“I play for fun now. I play because I love the game, because I am passionate about the game. There will come a point when the curtain comes down. Before the curtain comes down, a big thank you to you all. It’s been a fun run, you guys have been awesome with me for 20 years, so thanks,” Leander said on the sidelines of the Chennai Open.
With Mahesh Bhupathi taking over as the non-playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, Paes was asked the obvious question knowing his ‘blow-hot-blow cold’ relationship with his former doubles partner.
“People out there need to have credentials to be the captain and he (Bhupathi) has got credentials to be captain. In the next 18 months, we will see how it goes,” Paes told PTI during an exclusive chat.
Asked if he will be comfortable having Bhupathi in the captain’s chair, Paes retorted,”Why not?”
- Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won three Grand Slams together
- Mahesh Bhupathi will take over from Anand Amritraj as the Davis Cup skipper in April
- Leander Paes has featured in 54 Davis Cup ties
“Country comes first. No egos. As far as I am concerned, there has never been ego. If you have to achieve excellence, you have to be student of life. Captain sits on the bench, helps you out with a few things but at the end of the day, I am out there representing the country. So for me, whether it was Ramesh Krishnan, SP Misra, Naresh Kumar, my first captain, Anand Amritraj or Jaideep Mukherjee or Mahesh, I have one job to do and that is to represent country,” Paes emphasised.
Paes and Bhupathi had emerged as a force in late 90s in international tennis, winning three Grand Slams together before parting ways. Their stormy relation apart from their exploits together as a team has always been a topic of discussion in Indian tennis.
Bhupathi, who replaced Anand Amritraj, will take over from April. It fuelled speculation on how the two legends will go keeping in mind the history they share.
Paes, a veteran of 54 Davis Cup ties, said he had some good memories with Anand as captain.
“Congratulations to Anand for years, we have played together. We had some memorable matches, when we beat Korea in Chandigarh also when I beat my former partner Nenad Zimonjic in the doubles in Bangalore against Serbia. That was one of my best Davis Cup comebacks. So thanks to Anand and congratulations to Mahesh.”
However, Paes chose not speak on issues that resulted in change in captaincy.
Asked if he thinks, there was indiscipline in the team under Amritraj’s reign, Paes said, “That you have to ask AITA. I am a player under the captain and it’s not right for a player to speak about captain.”
Paes is close to a historic achievement as a win in the doubles against New Zealand in the upcoming tie, will make him the most successful doubles player in Davis Cup with 43 wins.
“To continue at 43, I am blessed to be playing at this level. I have to thank my whole team: my father, Sanjay Singh, Dave Herman, Rick Leach...the list just keeps going on, we have got few people new on my team now, who are going to help me in the last few months of my playing career and my post-tennis career.”
Paes also spoke about mentoring the younger lot.
“I would love to create someone who is winning for the first time and make him realise what it takes to win that first one. And when they do show that little girl what it is to win 5-6 times. That’s the dream I have now, more than playing the 8th Olympics or winning the 20th Grand Slam.”