'Misunderstood' Leander eager to return to Chennai Open

Leander Paes dispelled retirement talks on Wednesday, saying he will be back in Chennai again next year.

Leander Paes..."I still love tennis and I am really passionate about it."   -  R. Ragu

Leander Paes dispelled talks of retirement, yet again, after he and his Brazilian partner Andre Sa suffered a first round exit from the Chennai Open on Wednesday. The duo lost to Indian pair of Divij Sharan and Purav Raja 6-4, 6-4 in a day of upsets which saw top seed Marin Cilic >bowing out to qualifier Jozef Kovalik.

After suggesting to the media on the day of Somdev’s retirement that the end days of his playing career may also be near, 43-year-old Paes said he will be back to compete at the Chennai Open next year. “I hope to be holding this trophy again. I will keep playing hard and keep playing strong,” he said.

On the New Year day, an emotional Leander Paes >had said : “At 43, I am blessed to be able to compete at this level... I have a few people new on my team, who are going to help me on my last few months of my playing career and my post-tennis career.”

He had gone on to add, “I play for fun now. I play because I love the game but there will come a point when the curtain comes down and before the curtain comes down, a thank you to you all. It’s been a fun run. You have been awesome with me for 20 years,” he said.

'Misunderstanding'

After the first-round loss here on Wednesday, Leander cleared the air about his ‘impending’ retirement. “I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding the other day. Somdev had pronounced his retirement. Someone asked me and I said it could be today, tomorrow or six months down the lane. All of a sudden, it became ‘Leander is retiring’,” he said.

“I still love my tennis and I am really passionate about it. I think I will try and motivate this guy (Andre Sa) to win a Grand Slam. That’s what I want to do. When you hold trophies in your hand, it is wonderful. You have to keep fighting,” the 18-time Grand Slam champion said. “For me, I have had a great career and I am going to continue having a great career. I have a good partner with me,” he added.

Leander also had words of praise for the Divij and Purav. “Today wasn’t a great start for us, but you should give credit to the other boys. They played really well, especially Divij. He served so well, his first serve percentage was really good. He was down a breakpoint and he had a big second serve. They had a clear cut game plan and you could clearly see that within the first 10 minutes,” he said.

Reflecting further, he said: “They served for the first set and we had them in a little bit of trouble. They came out of that and held on. I had Purav under pressure. You know it is not easy to beat Leander on the Centre Court at Chennai Open (winks). Managed to break him, but two breaks down was a little too much.”

On the new partnership with 39-year-old Sa, Leander Paes said he will stick with the Brazilian for a while. “Some seasons you start really well and then you don’t do well after that. This season, we haven’t started so well here but it is just one match. For me, it is a nice partnership and I am looking forward to it.

“It’s easy when you are standing on the podium with the trophy in your hand to say that it is great. But I think true champions fight through situations like these. True champions stick together.”