Leander Paes won the 700th doubles match of his career in the first round of the French Open, with his 99th partner Daniel Nestor. Paes’ win made him only the eighth player to have won 700 matches, an elite list, by all standards. Predictably, the achievement brought tennis fans – across the world – to their feet,as there was no surprise or doubt clouding the jubilation in anyone’s mind.
Leander Paes: Indian tennis’ magician
Such has then been the aura of Paes, who has been a constant source of the nation’s pride and joy in the domain of sports for over two decades. With each passing year, he has also looked fitter and hungrier for more wins and has not been content to just be a part of the tennis circuit.
In that, Leander Paes is a true inspiration. Not just for fellow sportspersons and tennis players, but also for every individual in every aspect of life. Leander also makes it look easy, when it is not so. The way he lunges to hit a ball across the net, the way he wows audiences with cunning, so unique to him. But however easy he makes it look, such is not the case in actuality. His reflexes, good as they are, sometimes do let him down and it is evident when one watches his matches closely.
Getting Slower, but Surer
Age has caught up to him, though he is still defying it and trying to stare it down. In many ways, the present generation of sports fans are luckier. Because while in the past, many got to see and appreciate him at his best, the present generation of fans can marvel at his acumen along with all his minute lapses. These lapses have now added to his overall appeal.
He’s promised to be around until the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s a personal goal for him to represent India in seven consecutive Olympic Games. Knowing his tenacity, this promise is not by any means an empty one.
As everyone who saw him gaze proudly at the Indian tricolour when standing at the winners’ podium in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics can attest, when Leander Paes sets his sight on something, the fighter never bows down until he achieves the target. And knowing him and his penchant for equalling and breaking records, winning one more medal for India, is perhaps the last hurrah he is planning to bequeath to the nation.