Saketh Myneni can win a Grand Slam. Leander Paes certainly seems to think so. And when a 25-year veteran with 18 Grand Slams, 42 doubles wins in Davis Cup (tied most) and more than a 100 partners to his name says that, you would do well to listen.
“(Myneni) is a hell of a player. His serve, his return, his game, if he keeps on honing his skills and fitness to last five sets, I put this on record today, this guy can be a Grand Slam champion,” Paes said on Saturday.
The high praise came after Paes and Myneni ran Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez close. Myneni, an ad-court player with big serve combined well with the craftsman Paes to trouble the reigning Olympic champions. While the bullish performance wasn’t enough to avoid a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 defeat to hand an unassailable 3-0 lead to Spain in the World Group play-off tie, the veteran believed it was a sign of good things to come. Although he asserted that Myneni “could win a Grand Slam with someone else also, not just with me,” Paes made it clear that that the first-time pairing is ready for the grind of the Tour.
“From what I saw today, if Saketh wants to play some doubles, here’s a clean offer. I would enjoy playing with him on Tour. I don’t know what we have going on for the Chennai Open yet, but if I can get Saketh for six months and if he keeps working hard, and enjoying his tennis… This guy, you are going to laugh, but I have had a lot of partners who are less talented than him,” the 43-year-old said.
“Singles is still the priority,” was Myneni’s response, causing Paes to slap the desk in comedic disappointment.
The 28-year-old added, “Focus is still on singles as long as my mind and body permit, at least for a few more years. I love the offer he gave me. If I get a chance, I would love to play with him. I still got to play singles as long as possible. I need to move up my singles rankings so I can play doubles also at big events. It’s still about the balance.”
Paes meanwhile hinted that the combination should be retained for the future Davis Cup ties. Though he reiterated that the team is “the selection committee and captain’s choice,” Paes said, “Considering the way we played today against the gold medal winning team… Good God, it’d be crazy to switch things around.”