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Fitness first for Leander Paes in 2014!

Leander Paes may have won the US Open men’s doubles title with Radek Stepanek this year, but his cracked heel bones have ensured that 2013 hasn’t exactly been an easy year for him.

Leander Paes
Just Kidding: Leander Paes shares a light moment with a kid at the Khar Gym yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK

However, looking ahead, Paes said his focus would be on his fitness in 2014.  “For me, the Rio Games in 2016 is definitely a realistic target. In 2014, I will focus on trying to stay injury-free and take my fitness to another level.

I learned a lot from watching Andy Murray train off the court and seeing what he does with Ivan Lendl and his team to maintain his fitness. This has helped Murray get so much stronger.

“I also like to learn from someone like a (Novak) Djokovic who, to me, is just a genius in the way he prepares himself for tournaments,” he said.

Variation matters  
Apart from fitness, Paes said he would also work to get variation in his serve. “I have been working really hard on my rotator cuff. In 2014, I want my serve to get a little better.

It will mean that I need to get a little more range of movement on my backward motion. Hence, the flexibility has to be better, which gives me not only power but more variables and more range of direction.

That is what I will work on next year,” Paes said during a media briefing after a tennis clinic he held with 40 kids as part of ITPA’s Tennis Doubles Masters event at Khar Gymkhana.

While Paes will continue to partner Stepanek in 2014, he admitted he did not have a say on who he will partner at the Asian Games to be held in South Korea from September 19-October 4.

“I didn’t have a say during the London Olympics. What makes you think I will have one at the Asian Games. We will see when the time comes,” he said.

Better with Becker?
Paes said that that tennis legend Boris Becker’s decision to coach Djokovic took him by surprise. “I am quite intrigued to see what new ideas Boris can bring to the table.

I think Djokovic has done a smart thing by keeping Marian (Vajda) along, who has been a phenomenal coach. I believe this is Boris’ first coaching assignment and Boris at one point had got John McEnroe to coach him.

It will be quite interesting to see how Boris makes Djokovic better at a level where margins are so small.”

Doubles is delightful
On being asked about John McEnroe’s recent comments that doubles should be scrapped from Grand Slams since the elite players never compete in the category, Paes said he disagreed with the tennis legend’s opinion.

“I definitely don’t agree with McEnroe. The skills that some of today’s top doubles players like the Bryan twins and the Woodies have are amazing.

“The Bryan twins are a phenomenal pair and are the all-time best doubles team, which means that they would be better than McEnroe and (Peter) Fleming.

“Even (Roger) Federer played doubles and won an Olympic medal with Stanislas Wawrinka,” he pointed out. 

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