He has earned sobriquets of ‘ageless’ and ‘evergreen’, which may not be wildly novel or creative but fit him to the proverbial T. Indian tennis sensation Leander Paes, the grand old man of the doubles court, made history notching up the US Open mixed doubles title with Swiss partner Martina Hingis to become the format’s most successful male player in the Open era.
The tricolour flew at the US major once again, thanks to 42-year-old Pales who now has nine Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. This is one, surpassing Mahesh Bhupathi’s record of eight titles. The fourth-seeded Indo-Swiss pair edged past unseeded Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, 10-7, and won their third major title together this season. With this, Paes and Hingis, who also won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles earlier, become the first mixed doubles team since 1969 to win three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in the same year.
In a world where champions keep getting younger in every sport, Paes is holding his own at 42. One does accept that doubles tennis players on average are older than singles players, but the fact that Paes has stood the test of time is testament not just to his speed and strength, but also his mental toughness.
Top tennis players have always spoken about the demands and rigours of the tennis tour. That Paes has been able to take this for so many years, is no small feat. To be able to keep up a standard of fitness that allows him to compete at the top level demands a level of immense discipline and dedication. Paes has that in ample measure.
For years he shouldered the burden of India in the Davis Cup, till the next rung lifted it off him. Now, he continues to blaze a trail in the doubles majors, showing he is still hungry for victory even after more than two decades on courts in all formats.
In an instant world, where you are here today and gone tomorrow, Leander has proved that he has what it takes to win in the long run.