India needs a post-Paes programme

Leander Paes won his eight men’s doubles Grand Slam title and 14th overall title as he combined with Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek to win the US Open trophy on Sunday demolishing Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3 in a quick 1 hour and12 minutes at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Paes and his partner knocked out the formidable Bryan brothers in the semi-finals to deny the Americans the chance to become the first men’s doubles team in 62 years to win all four majors in the same year. Yet, this win is as much about introspection as it is about celebration. For how many years can India live off the feats of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi? There has to be an urgent effort to develop young tennis talent that shows the same consistency and depth of performance.

India does have Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devvarman, but a country that aspires to become a multi-games sporting power needs to have a steady influx of young players, challenging the old order. It is time for the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to actually chart out what we can call a post-Paes programme, in an all-out effort to keep an assembly line of tennis talent ready to bring it on with the best.

One agrees that this is easier said than done; yet with the huge resources of this nation, it is not impossible to spread the dragnet and actually try to unearth talent from cities and even maybe, the remote corners of this country. In an age, where 40 is positively geriatric given the powerhouse game tennis has become it is become imperative to give more depth to our tennis efforts with a concerted effort to find youngsters who can continue Leander’s legacy.

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