Leander Paes’ hunger for winning Grand Slam titles seems to be insatiable. Just short of his 43rd birthday, Leander, who won his 18 Grand Slam when he won the French Open mixed doubles title partnering Martina Hingis, said he wanted to win 20 Grand Slams.

“I am enjoying my game.  I also love achieving history and would be really happy if I could win 20 Grand Slams.  I feel that if I can retain my fitness then I can very well achieve that feat,” said Leander.  Incidentally, with the French Open triumph, Leander has now completed a rare career Slam in mixed doubles.

Speaking of his own form, Leander said that he was happy to regain his form. “I was not at my best form in the recent months. But then at the French Open I am very happy that I managed to rediscover my form. With the Rio Olympics less than two months away, I could not have asked for a better time to get my form back,” Leander said.

When queired on what role Martina played in the duo’s triumph, Leander said the Swiss great had a big role. “Martina was just too good. She complements my style very well. In the final, she was at her best and that made things easier for us. I feel she had a big role to play in our triumph in Paris,” said Leander.

When asked what kept him going for 25 long years on the tough and ardous ATP Tour, Leander said it was the love for the game. “Ever since I won the junior Wimbledon, my passion for the game has not ebbed one bit.  I want to carry on winning more and more laurels for my country,” said Leander.

When asked what sort of exercise he did to keep himself fit, Leander said, “It was something of  a secret. At my age, I cannot afford to exercise the way youngsters do. My exercises are aimed more at improving my reflexes rather than strengthening my power. I do my fitness regimen for six days a week,” he added.

Leander had a word of praise for his father Dr Vaece Paes. “My father has been my backbone in my career. I cannot forget the huge sacrifices he made for me early on in my career. He has been my biggest critic and I would not have been here without him,” he said.

Leander also recalled a special meeting with boxing legend Muhammed Ali whom he had idolised since childhood

“After I had won the bronze at Atlanta, I remember meeting Ali. His voice was a bit weak but he told me that it is your job to inspire each and every young child in your country. He was right. It is my job to motivate that they can also be champions,” he said.

On the cusp of playing a record seventh successive Olympics, Leander said it was special. Representing one’s country at the Olympics is a very special occasion. I am proud to have played for the country in the last six editions and I look forward to playing in the Rio Games,” he said.


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