Wimbledon mixed doubles champion says his 16th Grand Slam win would have been sweeter had his nine-year-old daughter been allowed to travel with him to London
Leander Paes grabbed his sweet 16th Grand Slam title when he and Swiss partner Martina Hingis (sixth seeds) stormed to the mixed doubles crown at SW19 beating Austrian Alexander Peya and Hungarian Timea Babos (seeded fifth) 6-1, 6-1 in 40 minutes on Sunday.
Mixed maestros: India’s Leander Paes and Swizerland’s Martina Hingis with their Wimbledon mixed doubles trophies on Sunday. Pic/AP/PTI
Moments later, however, the sweetness of professional success was overpowered by an emotional surge on the personal front. The 42-year-old's voice softened as he spoke to mid-day in the wee hours of Monday morning.
"I missed having Aiyana (daughter) by my side today. Unfortunately, she was not allowed to travel with me to Wimbledon, just like she was not allowed to travel with me to Delhi (in April last year), where I received the Padma Bhushan from President Pranab Mukherjee. It's her bedtime now, so I can't even call and share this joy with her. I'll make sure I do so first thing tomorrow morning," said Paes, who has been involved in a bitter court battle since last year with his estranged partner Rhea Pillai to gain custody of their nine-year-old child.
When asked to rate this title among his 16 Slams, Paes didn't take long to reply: "Given all that I've been through in the last two years, this has to be one of my best Grand Slam titles.
25 years ago...
"This title is also special because it's come a quarter of a century after I won the junior boys title at this very place. I remember, back then I was a little boy, all alone and only had my mother for company here. Since then a lot has changed around me, but not within me. My hunger for more glory is still as strong today as it was back then."
In fact, it hardly occurred to the former India Davis Cup captain that he had just won a Slam without dropping a set and won a Wimbledon final in a little over half an hour.
"Oh! Was it 40 minutes? I didn't realise that. It seemed like we were playing well, but I didn't know that we were playing that well. I have quite a few close family friends, who took a nine-hour flight from India to England to watch me play this final, so I kind of feel sorry for them that this got over so soon," said Paes, switching emotions just as quickly as he switched directions and whipped some superb winning returns at Centre Court on Sunday.
India's only Olympic medallist in tennis (a bronze in Atlanta 1996), hailed partner Hingis for their fine run.
The two Martinas...
"Hingis helped me win the Australian Open earlier this year and now this. I've been blessed to win Grand Slams with two of the best Martinas (Paes won the 2003 Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Martina Navratilova) to have played this game. I'm not a technically sound player -- I play on instinct and with my heart -- so I learnt the nuances of the game from 'that' Martina (Navratilova) and that learning continues with 'this' Martina," added Paes, who pointed out that this was a record title haul for India at the All-England Club.
"I'd like to congratulate Sania (Mirza) and Sumit (Nagal) for winning the women's doubles and boys' doubles titles. It's a record for the most number of titles for Indians at one Wimbledon. I met Sumit at practice yesterday and day before. I'm confident he'll have a bright and long career," said Paes, who boasts of a cupboard full of Slams -- eight mixed and eight men's doubles titles to be precise.
List of mixed doubles wins: 8
1999: Wimbledon/Grass, partner Lisa Raymond beat Anna Kournikova and Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
2003: Australian Open/Hard, partner Martina Navratilova beat Eleni Daniilidou and Todd Woodbridge 6-4, 7-5
2003: Wimbledon/Grass, partner Martina Navratilova beat Anastassia Rodionova and Andy Ram 6-3, 6-3
2008: US Open/Hard, partner Cara Black beat Liezel Huber and Jamie Murray 7-6, 6-4
2010: Australian Open/Hard, partner Cara Black beat Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky 7-5, 6-3
2010: Wimbledon/Grass, partner Cara Black beat Lisa Raymond and Wesley Moodie 6-4, 7-6
2015: Australian Open/Hard, partner Martina Hingis beat Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor 6-4, 6-3
2015: Wimbledon/Grass, partner Martina Hingis beat Timea Babos and Alexander Peya 6-1, 6-1
List of men's doubles win: 8
1999: French Open/Clay, partner Mahesh Bhupathi beat Goran Ivanisevic and Jeff Tarango 6-2, 7-5
1999: Wimbledon/Grass, partner Mahesh Bhupathi beat Paul Haarhuis and Jared Palmer 6-7 (10-12), 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
2001: French Open/Clay, partner Mahesh Bhupathi beat Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner 7-6, 6-3
2006: US Open/Hard, partner Martin Damm beat Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3
2009: French Open/Clay, partner Lukas Dlouhy beat Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
2009: US Open/Hard, partner Lukas Dlouhy beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
2012: Australian Open/Hard, partner Radek Stepanek beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7-1), 6-2
2013: US Open/Hard, partner Radek Stepanek beat Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3