Game, set, match!
Professionally speaking, the year 2011 did nothing much for Leander Paes' career. But the tennis professional bounced back in 2012 with a career Grand Slam in doubles.
And now, he’s all set for the Olympics Games in July, his sixth time at the games! Self-admittedly, he’s like a little kid who likes re-setting his goals each time he goes out there to play a match. And he admits, at 39, nobody’s asked him what his retirement plans are. “I won the Wimbledon with Martina Navratilova when she was 49. I’m just a spring chicken in comparison!” he laughs. Paes tells CS about his preparation for the Games and what motivates him to keep going:
Passion for the game
People don’t let you forget the expectations they have from you. For me, that’s the fun part, because the goal is the motivation for my hard work. At the end of the day, as an athlete, I’m only competing against myself because you get to a stage when you have done everything that’s normal and now you’re trying to do something special. The expectations have come because of what I’ve done, so I have to keep outdoing them. I’m my biggest critic. For me, my success is when I’ve done the best I could do. The thing I pride myself most on is the passion with which I conduct my career.
Olympics on my mind
The Olympics are the pinnacle of every athlete’s career. I’ve been preparing for it for the past three-and-a-half years. I was already looking to pick and choose a partner. I was looking to play a certain style of doubles that is required at the Olympics. I have buffed up my muscles with my weightlifting. In the coming three months, I have three grand slams back to back and the Olympics. To be able to peak so often is really difficult. But I feel I am ready for it.
Dad’s the way!
My dad’s amazing. He’s the first one to be by my side when I’ve had a tough outing or when I’ve lost a match. He’ll be the last one when I’ve won something and eventually when I get to him, he would have already raised the bar. When I played my first Olympics, I never had a clue that I will play my sixth. Then when I got unwell in the middle, he said you have to get well because you promised to play four more. When I did that, he said now there’s the fifth. I think he forgets Olympics is not every year, it’s once every four years! The sixth is coming and he’s already looking at Rio! (laughs)