Kolkata: Indian tennis icon Leander Paes on Wednesday said it's been a phenomenal year for the sport in India this season and it's a matter of time that the next generation will take over the mantle from them.
"It's been a phenomenal year for Indian tennis. For myself and Sania (Mirza) as well. She's no 1 in the world and the first Indian and Asian woman to do that. I think that is paving the way for other Indian girls to go and see if Sania can go out there and conquer the world through her hard work and belief so that others can do that as well. She gives them belief.
"It goes back to what Mahesh (Bhupathi) and I did it in the 90s. When we got into four Grand Slam finals and won two. We paved the way for youngsters to believe that they can be number one as well."
He also lavished praise on Rohan Bopanna for getting to final of season-ending ATP world Tour to return to top 10 in rankings.
"It's his second final. Seniors on tour have done a great job. We don't have that much of void in between. We're not that far off until we have few others who can come off and carry the mantle as well," Paes said on the sidelines of Tennis Masters Kolkata leg.
It was an emotional return for Paes to his home city and in a humble manner he said with dedication and perseverance one can achieve anything.
"With a lot of hardwork and belief you can achieve anything. Growing up in Kolkata and learning my tennis in South Club and finding my way through the school here in La Martiniere, I never ever dreamt that I will be sitting back here with 17 Grand Slam titles, an Olympic medal and playing with these great guys.
"It's been a long 36 years journey. It's very humbling to come back and see the passion that Kolkata has for tennis. If you see the other players who are coming up, there's no reason why young girl and boy cannot do it. No matter what their dream are to be.
"It just takes dedication, passion and a lot of perseverance. Achieving careers that we had doesn't happen overnight or in a span of 10 years. The enjoyment and the passion with which we do it speaks about the longevity of the greatness. It's a way of life for us," Paes added.