The Indian veteran Leander Paes will finish the season outside the top-100 on the ATP Doubles list for the first time since 1994 but is still not ready to give up and call it a career. Making a professional debut at the age of 16 in the Davis Cup back in 1990, Leander was a part of the team that defeated Pakistan 29 years later last week in Kazakhstan, securing the Davis Cup Qualifiers berth for India against Croatia in March next year.
At the age of 46 and ranked just outside the top-100, Paes still dreams about that eighth consecutive Olympic Games in Tokyo, already standing as the record holder with seven straight appearances since Barcelona 1972. His parents were the Olympians and he always admired one of the greatest sporting events in the world, winning a bronze medal in singles in Atlanta 1996.
"You know I am an Olympic kid. My parents were in Munich in 1972 and I was born with this physicality and environment that my parents gave my two elder sisters and myself. To play the Tokyo Olympics would be a dream for me," Paes said.
"More than anything, I would love to bring India its world record of the most number of Olympics ever played in the sport of tennis. I have got that at the moment with seven Olympics and to take it up another notch and to represent India in eight Olympics in a row and make sure that the world record stays at home would be fantastic.
When I first got the call seven weeks ago, I didn't ask why and whereas you ask such a relevant question at the press conference, we don't ask who we play against and where we play. When it comes to playing for the country, we put our hands up and I didn't realize I was the first guy to put my hands up but I'm thrilled and proud of the youngsters who followed the trend.
I think to achieve excellence in anything, you need to have a certain amount of perseverance, patience, but I choose to do it with grace. I choose to play for my country and my flag with a lot of grace and that's what my parents have instilled in me."