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Martina Navratilova is a big inspiration for me: Leander Paes

Czech tennis legend Martina Navratilova has been a huge inspiration to Leander Paes, who earlier this week became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title. “I have played with Martina for many, many years, and she continues to be a big inspiration for me to continue remodelling my game.

Leander Paes
Leander Paes talks to the electronic media on arrival at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

She helped me stay healthy and have a lifestyle that is clean and very productive towards my tennis,” he said after returning to India yesterday. Martina and Paes partnered from 2002 to 2005 and have won two Grand Slams —Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2003.

“Every time I step on court, (I do it to) honour my team, my father (Vece), who has been always with me over the years, nurturing me as a human being as well as an athlete,” he added.

Paes and Radek Stepanek beat Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3 to win the US Open doubles final on Sunday. This is Paes’ eighth Grand Slam men’s doubles title and 14 overall. “I had no idea I was the first person in the Open era to win a Grand Slam at 40.

Leander Paes and Martina Navratilova
Leander Paes and Martina Navratilova at the ’03 Australian Open. Pic/Getty Images

But, what I did know is that this has been such a rough year — both on and off the court. Coming into the American summer, I knew I had to do really well. My first week in the Canadian Open in Montreal (in June) didn’t go well and then the week in Cincinnati was average.

“So I added an extra tournament — Winston-Salem Open. I played with a new partner Daniel Nestor and we won that one. That seems to have kick-started the rhythm,” he said.

Paes followed up his junior Wimbledon title (in 1990) by winning the Junior US Open title at the age of 18 in 1991.  “US Open is one of my favourite hunting grounds. I have done really well there over the years.

I won the junior singles way back in 1991 and my performance in the last seven years in mixed and men’s doubles has been very solid. I am always happy to get on the hard court, happy to get into humid conditions which the Indians are used to and do really well,” he said. 

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