A day after Leander Paes announced his retirement plans, father Vece Paes revealed that performing well at the 2020 Tokyo Games and the Davis Cup Qualifiers were the two tournaments his son had in mind before bidding adieu to professional tennis. Leander, on Thursday, announced that 2020 will be his farewell year, after which he will ride into the sunset, and his father revealed it was something the 18-time Grand Slam winner had been contemplating for a while.
“The Davis Cup is in March. Then there is the Olympics in Tokyo. He wants to represent the country in those two events and give his all. He can then call it a day after playing tennis for 35 years,” Vece Paes told IANS. “He has been thinking about it for four-five months. He is 46 now. Age is catching up. He wants to spend more time with his daughter (Aiyana). So he announced that 2020 will be his last.”
Paes, 46, is the winner of 18 Grand Slams titles – eight doubles and ten mixed doubles. After turning pro in 1991, Paes won a bronze medal for India in singles in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He has competed in every Olympics between 1992 and 2016, making him the only Indian to feature at seven different games.
During the late 1990s, Paes formed a formidable team with Mahesh Bhupathi with both becoming the No. 1 ranked doubles pair in the world and winning three Grand Slam titles together. Earlier this year, Paes represented India at the Davis Cup and recorded his 44th win in the competition’s doubles category, alongside debutant Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan as India steamrolled Pakistan 4-0.
“I feel happy for him, sometimes you don’t have words. He has been a champion all along and has achieved everything,” said Paes sr., a former India hockey player, who represented India at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Former Davis Cup coach Akhtar Ali, who has known Leander since his early days, said Paes’ exit will cause a huge void Indian tennis, while AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee plans on having something special organised for the tennis star’s swansong.
“He is a wonderful fellow. We all know what he has done for the country. It will be a big loss for tennis,” Akhtar told IANS. “I will speak to him. We will definitely do something (to honour him),” AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee added.