For the last three decades, Leander Paes has been following a strict routine — start the day early, hit the gym, train hard and get ready for a game. That’s how life has been for the Indian tennis ace.
For Paes, travelling 35-40 weeks a year is also part of the game.
But as the world has come to a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic, Paes is spending his time differently. At his Mumbai residence, the 46-year-old is busy training his daughter Aiyana and sharing some good times with his parents.
“It’s an interesting time,” Paes said with a smile, as he spoke about life in the times of the coronavirus.
At a time when stepping out of home is not an option, how are you keeping yourself engaged?
It’s an interesting time because we all are trying to be innovative in occupying our time. For me, work involves 35-40 weeks of travelling. So, this has given me a great opportunity to spend time with my loved ones — my parents, my daughter. This is the time to have meals with them, interact with them and also show Aiyana how to do home training. To basically create a home training system. It also gives me a chance to catch up on all my business and other work, and also communicate — via video-conferencing — with my team around the world.
What’s the training regime that you are following these days?
That’s the hardest bit. My whole job has come to a standstill. A lot of people like me are not being able to focus on their profession and, hence, are losing earnings, training... In these times, one needs to be innovative in terms of training and be very patient. As far as training goes, I am doing a lot of home training, keeping up with my cardio work on my static cycle at home. I have one of those racing bikes which is put on a stand. I use that. I am doing back exercises, slow routines. I use rubber bands as weight, so I use innovative methods in the house.
I’m very lucky to have vast experience over the years of travelling to different hotels and travelling to different cities and different countries every single week, so I have had to adapt accordingly. So, this is just one such way of testing how one can adapt to another new situation.
You were travelling when the pandemic broke out. How challenging was it to return home and ensure that the training process wasn’t affected?
Since the beginning of the year, as the Australian Open and the Davis Cup finished, everything has come to a standstill. Indian Wells (BNP Paribas Open) has come to a standstill. That tournament has lost a hundred million-plus dollars in revenue. Miami (Open) has come to a standstill likewise. Now, the French Open is postponed. The whole clay court season is lost, so Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid are cancelled. We have to find a way to just be patient, and the call of the day now is to do the best by our community by staying at home. Especially in India, it is very, very important that we do not let this pandemic grow fast. Because of our population, already the medical fraternity is getting stretched in not just containing the virus, but also in testing.
You test someone today and two days later you have to retest them. So, how is it possible to sustain medically? It is our imperative that we as a community realise that the best way to stay healthy and to stay safe is to stay at home.
This is your farewell year in professional tennis. So, how much has this pandemic affected your training schedule and plans?
This was a farewell year for me. There’s a lot of re-evaluation to be done. So, my team is also on that. My father is very happy because he felt in the beginning that I should not be retiring this year. So he’s really happy that now the pre-season has been extended. He is obviously trying to encourage me to continue playing by saying that, “If you have this sort of skill set and that you have results already this year, you should continue. You are playing at the top of the game.”
Now, that being said, I think it is very important for us as a human race always to realign ourselves with what life throws at us.
During hard times like these, what are the factors that you keep in mind while training?
I think everyone is affected differently. It is tough to generalise. The the call of the day is to basically be responsible. The call of the day is to have patience and abide by the government and WHO’s (World Health Organization) regulations. Those governing bodies know the actual numbers, they know the way this pandemic can flare up. I think it’s very important to follow the guidelines and be disciplined about it. Wash your hands, make sure hygiene is utmost. Make sure you have social distancing. Make sure that we keep our elderly and our young safe, that we don’t subject them to any infection. I think that it is very important that it starts at home.
Any message for the fans across the country?
Apart from being responsible, apart from social distancing, it is also important for us to innovate. It’s also very important to watch one’s diet. Because when idleness comes around, the natural human instinct is to eat a lot. And without having that activity of either walking up and down steps, of exercising which keeps us fit, it is very important to watch how much quantities of food and drink we intake. As Indians, we love food. We love as a community to come together and eat. It is important to practice social distancing and watch our diet.
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