Leander Paes’ craft is too dear to him to mock at. And it wasn’t surprising that the 14-time Grand Slam champion laughed off John McEnroe’s suggestion that doubles should be scrapped off from the majors.
“Doubles? Why are we even playing it at this point?” McEnroe had said in an unexpected and scathing attack earlier this month. “I don’t know what doubles is bringing to the table. Most players are the slow guys who were not quick enough to play singles.”
“Everybody has an opinion,” Paes said, on the sidelines of the Indian Tennis Professionals Association event here on Sunday morning. “I don’t agree with his.”
“There are so many doubles players who have the skillset. The Bryan brothers (Mike and Bob) are phenomenal. And if they are considered the best ever, it means they were better than McEnroe and (Peter) Fleming.”
The Bryan twins — who have more Grand Slams (15), number of weeks as No 1 and tournament wins than any other pair in men’s doubles — had received a special mention by McEnroe, known not only for his seven singles Grand Slam wins, but also for winning seven majors with Fleming and occupying the No 1 spot for 270 weeks.
Paes, who turned 40 this June, though agreed that the best case scenario for today’s game was to have a singles and doubles specialist team up. He himself has benefitted from the partnership with Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek, ranked 44 in singles.
“You need that sharpness from the baseline that the singles guys have,” Paes, who won the 2012 Australian Open and 2013 US Open with Stepanek, said. “Most of them have a great serve and use it as a weapon. For me, at least, these are the guys that compliment my game the best.”
On a personal note, the Indian said he was working on strengthening the rotator cuff to give him more range on the serve. As he starts his 24th year on the pro tour at the Chennai Open, Paes is still trying hard to keep his art relevant.