Bangalore: At 41 and his 24th year in Davis Cup, Leander Paes has not lost any zest for tennis, especially doubles. And having gone through so many partners in his illustrious career, Paes is paired up again, for only the third time in Davis Cup, with Rohan Bopanna. But the veteran says he will slip into a supporting role.
Paes arrived here Tuesday and almost immediately got back into the 'Davis Cup mode' after an unsuccessful sojourn in New York for the US Open as he and his doubles partner Radek Stepanek lost in the round of 16.
Looking forward to Saturday when the doubles match is to be played, Paes, whose doubles ranking has slipped to 35, said he would let the No.27-ranked Bopanna lead, given the younger player's style of play.
Bopanna and Paes first played together in 2007 for the Asia/Oceania Relegation playoff against Kazakstan and made a winning start by defeating Alexey Kedryuk and Dimitry Makeyev 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
They came together again in 2012 for the zonal semi-final against Uzbekistan, but lost to Murad Inoyatov/Denis Istomin 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 3-6.
"Home town support will be huge for him, and it's a big advantage. The fire will be there. For me, I have had so many partners, I take different roles. With Mahesh (Bhupathi), I always led. With Radek (Stepanek of the Czech Republic), sometimes I lead, sometimes not."
"Here, I feel that Rohan will lead, and I will be the solid one, give him enough opportunities to go for it. If Rohan plays soft and tries to just keep the ball in play, the ball will go everywhere."
"I came out and saw him today (Tuesday). He asked me for a couple of tips. Rohan is a firepower player. That is his strength. He is like a bull and you let him run right through the opponents," Paes said in a chat with the media here Tuesday.
On his last-minute inclusion in the Davis Cup team, Paes said he responded to the requests by both the non-playing captain Anand Amritraj and Bopanna.
"Unfortunately, I missed the first two ties of the year. I was about to miss this one as well. I have been playing non-stop for 15 weeks. I got a phone call from Amritraj and Rohan. They said they needed me. I told the captain I have an obligation on Friday early morning. The captain was fine with it. Friday afternoon after lunch return is ok, he said," Paes said.
Looking ahead to this weekend's tie, Paes said it will be an "intriguing" contest which will hinge not just on doubles, but also on the four singles matches.
"The tie will be intriguing. I saw in the morning that Somdev said that the tie hinges on the doubles. I will always take the pressure, but there are four singles and one doubles."
"Day 1 is crucial for all Davis Cup matches, but I don't want to predict. The two Serbian guys are two solid players," Paes said.