Chennai: Anecdotes on Leander Paes flew
thick and fast as India`s tennis greats, former and present,
came together to celebrate the 12-time Grand Slam winner`s 21
years of representing the nation in Davis Cup.
Speaking at a felicitation ceremony organised by the All
India Tennis Association (AITA) to celebrate Paes`
achievements, former Davis Cup captain Ramanathan Krishnan
rated Paes as one of the greatest athletes of India.
"Leander, Viswanathan Anand and Sachin Tendulkar emerged
in the 1990s and became great sportspersons because of their
achievements. They broadbased sport in India as more and more
youngsters wanted to emulate them," Krishnan said here.
Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom Paes had won three Grand
Slams, said "to perform continuously for 20 years may show up
lack of talent in the country. But this is not so in the case
International Tennis Federation (ITF) president,
Francesco Rici Bitti`s message to Paes was read out by
AITA general secretary Anil Khanna. "There are so many
positive things to say about your career but to me, the most
important is that you are a great ambassador of tennis."
"I can still remember very clearly your junior career and
you certainly have more than fulfilled the promise that you
showed by winning the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles,"
An emotional Paes, on his part, said, "The celebration of
my two decades in Davis Cup is actually a celebration of
India`s Davis Cup saga. I`ve always been a team man. I stepped
down as captain when the team did not want me there."
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent my
country and the people," Paes said amidst loud applause.
Paes, who rated his win against Goran Ivanicevic as his
best, said, "I also cherish my win against South African Wayne
Praising Bhupathi, Paes said that "it was Mahesh who
taught me how to communicate. Perhaps our partnership broke up
because of my inability to communicate with him. May be, it
would have been great if we had won a few more Grand Slams".
Naresh Kumar, who had amongst others, spotted Paes`
talent, thanked him and Bhupathi for changing the face of
"Leander and Mahesh helped us develop an attitude that
made fresh horizons. Leander had a swagger, a swagger of a
`puttani` (a weirdo). His greatest strength was his
unpredictability," he said.
Ramesh Krishnan, another former Davis Cupper, referred to
Paes as the perfect captain’s player. "Leander was ready to
play both singles and doubles," Ramesh said.