Paes not sure of his Davis Cup partner for doubles play

Chennai: Veteran Indian tennis player Leander Paes on Tuesday said he is still unsure about his doubles partner in the crucial Davis Cup tie against Brazil starting here Friday.

Without naming Mahesh Bhupati, Paes talked a lot about available options in the Indian team and said the non-playing captain S P Mishra would take the call as to who will partner him on second day of the tie on Saturday.

"It is good to have options and it is going to be tough on the captain to decide. I have full confidence in S P Mishra whom I have known for many years. He has been our lucky captain and so it is up to him to decide," said Paes, who has scripted many memorable triumphs at the international levels.

The most successful professional player of India, Paes let his emotions out taking pride on serving the country that he loves most.

"For sure, this tie is something special for me. I still remember my first match in Davis Cup against Japan in Jaipur. It was 18-16 in the fifth set and we won the tie," he said on his five-set doubles match that he won along with Zeeshan Ali as India to thrash Japan.

Within an hour of his arrival here this afternoon, Paes was at the SAF Games Tennis Stadium with other members of the Indian Davis Cup squad for a three-hour workout.

Bhupathi was conspicuous by his absence since not having arrived here and thus Paes practised with Rohan Bopanna, whose morale is on the high having finished runner-up at the US Open last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association officials confirmed that Bhupathi would be arriving here by Jet Airways late tonight.

Paes, who won his first ATP Grand-Slam Doubles title with Bhupathi at this same venue, paused a beat before recounting some of his greatest moments in Davis Cup when scribes reminded him that he is in to his 21st season in Davis Cup play.

"There are so many of those, but I particularly remember my win against (Goran) Ivanisevic (1995, vs Croatia in Delhi), Frejus of course (vs France in 1992) and there was what I feel was the cleanest tie I have ever played against Jan Siemerink (vs Netherlands in 1996), when I won all my three sets on tie-break," Paes said.

Paes spelt out the need to exert every sinew to prepare for a Davis Cup tie, and took pride in saying that representing the country was the biggest high.

"As a kid, I always wanted to be an Olympian and play for my country. I am happy that I was able to achieve that," said Paes, matching his father Vece`s feat of being part of the bronze medal winning Indian hockey team, with a bronze in singles play at the 1996 Olympics by claiming the singles bronze.

"I beat one of my closest friends, Fernando Meligeni of Brazil to win the bronze medal at Atlanta (Olympics)," he recalled.

Paes, at 37, said Brazil was close to his heart as he had memorable time having been in the soccer crazy country.

"Brazilians are very nice people and I had the honour of playing a match in front of Pele, but these players here are tough and strong," Paes said on the tie this weekend.

Saying that he was looking forward to the tie with a lot of expectation, Paes opined that aspects such as the court surface and weather conditions or, for that matter, both Brazilian singles players, Thomaz Bellucci and Ricard Mello, being left-handers were not important at all.

"On the tour, we play on different surfaces and players, day in and day out. I don`t think it really matters, because at the end of the day, you got to beat them to win the tie. As for the hard court, it is very even because on the tour, you either play on clay or on hard court. So, we are all used to it," he explained.


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