Leander Paes: My role in this team is to motivate youngsters

Apr 11, 2018, 14:14 IST | Ashwin Ferro

"It ranks among the Top 5 achievements in my career, where the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze is right up there," Paes said during an interaction at Sofitel yesterday

Leander Paes at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Leander Paes at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble

At 44, Leander Paes realises that he's no spring chicken, and probably gone are the days when he singlehandedly carried the burden of the Davis Cup team. But that doesn't mean he has any plans of giving up that India blue shirt soon. After all, he just achieved a world record highest number of Davis Cup doubles wins, 43, in it only recently.

"It ranks among the Top 5 achievements in my career, where the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze is right up there," Paes said during an interaction at Sofitel yesterday.

Paes believes he is a mentor to this team that has players nearly half his age. "My role is to motivate the youngsters, not by talk, but by play, by sharing my experiences with them. We played and beat China without our No. 1 singles players Yuki [Bhambri] which makes the win special. It shows that we are on top in Asia," he added.

Against China, in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I Round Two tie, India lost the first two singles rubbers when Ramkumar Ramnathan, 23, and Sumit Nagal, 20, went down rather tamely. But Paes-Rohan Bopanna's doubles win brought about a turnaround that saw Ramkumar and Prajnesh Gunneswaran, 28, clinch the next two reverse singles rubbers for a 3-2 win.

Paes explained that turnaround: "When we were 0-2 down, Prajnesh came to me and said that he wants to play the fifth rubber. I told him that we have to still win the next two to reach the fifth but he was sure we would win it. So I told him to approach captain Mahesh [Bhupathi] and coach Zeeshan [Ali]. Both agreed and the kid came out and played some flawless tennis."

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