When people talk about the greatest sportspersons of India, they talk about Major Dhyan Chand, they talk about Sachin Tendulkar, they talk about Sunil Gavaskar among others; but one name that they often miss is that of Leander Paes – the man who has toiled endlessly on the tennis courts for over two decades, bringing in laurels galore for himself and the country as whole.
If hockey has Major Dhyan Chand, cricket has Sachin Tendulkar, than Indian tennis is synonymous to Leander Paes. He is a synergy of mental and physical strength and is still going strong at 39. When most of the illustrious cricket compatriots of his age failed to give a challenge to the Aussies in their backyard, Leander proved his mantle once again and bagged his 13th Grand Slam title by winning the Australian Open doubles title and made it into the elite league of players who have won all the slams in their career.
Leander Paes play tennis, the game played by most of countries of the world, unlike cricket which is played competitively in just 10-12. And people who know about sports is very much aware of the fact that on any day tennis is more physically challenging sport than most of the other sports and the average age of a player is much lower compared to others discipline.
Leander Paes has been playing professional tennis from the past 21 years and has won 49 doubles career titles. He has won 13 Grand Slam titles (including both doubles and mixed doubles) and who can forget the bronze medal that he won for India in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
It can be argued that Leander plays an individual sport and is not representing his country most of the time, but people who knows tennis will know his performance in Davis Cup where he does represent his country and of course not to mention the Olympics, where only seven Indians have so far been able to win individual medals for the country so far.
Leander, who started his Davis Cup career when he was 16 years old in the year 1990, has never looked back. He has an overall record of 86–31 and has played a pivotal role in India’s Davis Cup campaign from the past so many years.
With all the senior players in India coming to their carrier end and on some occasion are forced to declare their end, Leander is growing in his stature everyday and has made his name in one of the most sought after sport worldwide.
India is a country obsessed with cricket and cricket has given us many legends, but Leander Paes has been accepted as a legend throughout this planet and in the countries where no one understands cricket. Maybe if he was born in any other country there would have been more talks about this legend, who is a tale of grime, guts and glory.
By Gaurav Jha,
Indian Sports News