After a successful Wimbledon, India tennis ace Leander Paes can’t wait to be back at the same venue for the London Olympics’ tennis events that kick off on July 27.
“I’ve had a great time at Wimbledon. Radek (Stepanek) and myself lost narrowly in the third round of the men’s doubles to Ivan (Dodig) and Marcelo (Melo) after a tough five-setter (6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-8) in a match that was played over two days and interrupted 11 times due to bad weather,” Paes told MiD DAY from California yesterday where he is currently leading the Washington Kastles in the World Team Tennis.
Ready to serve: Leander Paes prepares to serve during a men’s doubles match at Wimbledon recently. Pic/ Getty images
Wimbledon has come on the back of a fine season for the 39-year-old, who rose to World No 5 in the latest July ATP rankings. Paes won three ATP doubles titles in 2012 (Australian Open, Miami and Chennai). He and Russian Elena Vesnina also ended runners-up at the Australian Open and Wimbledon mixed doubles events. The recent defeat to Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond (3-6, 7-5, 4-6) at Wimbledon still hurts him.
“That was an intense game and we were hitting the ball really well. We were unfortunate to end up on the losing side,” said Paes, who felt his Wimbledon performance was particularly significant considering the controversial circumstances that preceded it.
The All Indian Tennis Association recently paired up India’s highest ranked player with rookie Vishnu Vardhan in the men’s doubles for the Olympics after Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to team up with the former India Davis Cup skipper, claiming they were a team themselves. AITA picked Bhupathi-Bopanna as India’s second men’s doubles Olympic team while Paes and Sania were paired for the mixed doubles.
Paes said the controversy did affect him as he headed into Wimbledon, but once in the groove, he forgot all else.
“For the first three or four days, I was quite distracted by the off-court issues, but once I got into the thick of things, the magic flowed once again. At the end of the day, it’s the on-court performance that speaks for itself,” said Paes, who is now eager to make the most of what will be a record sixth Olympics.
He’s already taken the inexperienced 24-year-old Vishnu under his wings. “Vishnu was by my side during Wimbledon and is also with me in the US now. I have got him to train with my coach Rick Leach and together they’re doing some fitness stuff and also practising some doubles drills, serve-and-volley, etc,” said Paes.
Paes and Sania are being looked upon as the country’s brightest medal hope in the mixed doubles event in London.
“Anyone else would have probably been satisfied with a third round in the doubles and runner-up trophy in mixed at Wimbledon, but I would have liked more. I’m keen to carry on the good work from Wimbledon into the Olympics now. It would be great to have another Olympic medal round my neck,” said Paes, who claimed a bronze medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.