India’s legend Leander Paes is enjoying his last season on the ATP Tour as a player. At 46 years old, with almost three decades of professional tennis under his belt, the former World Doubles No. 1 is bidding farewell to what has been the setting to some of the brightest and happiest moments of his life.
After bowing out of his last ATP event played on home soil—the Tata Open Maharashtra—, Paes showed his characteristic wisdom and positivity as he explained what has he learnt through his career. “Wow that’s a big question,” he said.
“I think that when it comes to a career that is so large, that’s a very difficult question to answer, because… Ninety percent of my education has come from sports, has come from travelling the world, come from leaving home as a twelve-year-old boy, sleeping in locker rooms in the beginning, trying to put a team together, and then trying to be the best I can be.
In that, there are so many nuances of life that you learn. One is to be a student of the game of tennis. The craft is one thing, how to hit every shot in the book. But then there is… To be a champion, you’ve got to know life, you’ve got to know how to play life.
I think what differentiates normal from excellence is between the two temples. It’s the intelligence to think, the talent you have, or the hard work that you need to put in, or believing in yourself under pressure. Handling triumph, handling tough days, and being the best you can be.
I think if you look at any athlete’s career, there’s more failure than success. But some of us have... karma, luck, hard work, timing, team, we’re able to win at the right moments”. Teaming with Australia’s Matthew Ebden, Paes reached the quarter-finals in Pune, where the pair was stopped by Indian duo Purav Raja/Ramkumar Ramanathan, 6-2, 6-1.
The 18-time Grand Slam doubles champion announced his post-2020 retirement on social media in late 2019.