India tennis superstar Leander Paes is celebrating his 47th birthday today. The doubles specialist who began his career as a singles player is the most successful male player in Indian tennis history having won multiple Grand Slam titles apart from an Olympic medal that made him a household name back in 1996. Also Read - Two-Time Olympic Badminton Champion Lin Dan Announces Retirement
The year 2020 was to be Paes’ final as a professional athlete during which he planned to make one last appearance at the Olympics but fate had other plans . The coronavirus pandemic has upended the world meaning professional tennis has been suspended since March and the Olympics, scheduled to be held in Tokyo, have been delayed by a year. However, Paes plans to compete whenever tennis resumes and also make a record-extending eighth appearance at the Summer Games. Also Read - Leander Paes Ready With His 'New Version' But Concerned About Tokyo Olympics Future
Here we look at the top-10 facts from his storied career so far: Also Read - Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi to be Redeveloped at a Cost of 7,850 Crore
1. It’s in the genes. Paes’ parents were renowned athletes themselves. His father Vece Paes was a midfielder in the India men’s hockey team and part of the squad that won the bronze medal at the Munich Olympics 1972. His mother captained India women basketball team in the 1980s.
2. He began playing tennis at the age of 12 years and received professional coaching at the Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai (then Madras).
3. At the age of 17, he won the Wimbledon junior title in 1990 and in the same year became the world No. 1 at the junior circuit.
4. He was 22 when he ended India’s 44-year-old wait for an individual Olympic medal, winning the singles bronze ay the Atlanta Games in 1996.
5. Paes is the most successful tennis player in Indian history having won 18 doubles titles during his stories career.
6. Together with Mahesh Bhupathi, he formed a formidable doubles pair which was dubbed as ‘Indian Express’ before personal differences resulted in them breaking apart.
7. He idolises boxing legend Muhammed Ali and saint Mother Teresa.
8. He has also acted in a Bollywood movie called Rajdhani Express.
9. Paes has made 97 appearances at the Grand Slam tournaments and hopes to complete a century.
10. He has been honoured with Arjuna Award (1990), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and Padma Shri award for his contribution to the game.