Leander Paes gears up for Tokyo Olympics

Paes, the 47-year-old tennis star from India, has started sweating it out at the Khar Gymkhana in Mumbai.

Leander Paes at the Tennis Premier League auction in Mumbai on Tuesday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Tokyo Olympics is still a few months away, but Indian tennis star Leander Paes has already started preparing for the mega event. The 47-year-old, who is set to feature in his eighth Games, also believes that the best players should represent the country.

“I know that the French Open is May-June, the Wimbledon in June-July and also the Olympics. But I have not made the schedule yet. And now that we have to be careful as the second wave of COVID-19 has hit us. I have always been a patriot and for me, the country will always come first,” Paes said on the sidelines of the Tennis Premier League season III auction on Tuesday.

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“What drives me is to ensure that India stays in the record books. We need to send the best team that has a chance for a medal. That is what drives me forward.”

The marathon man of Indian tennis had initially decided to hang up his boots in 2020, but with the COVID-19 postponing the event by a year, Paes chose to continue for one more year. And to ensure that he gets back into the rhythm, Paes is training at home and sweating it out at the Khar Gymkhana courts.

“I took 11 months off, this is the maximum in my 31-year-long career. By the end of 2019, I was jaded and tired from all the traveling and the effort that it took for me to continue playing at the highest level…,” he said.

“The break helped me spend quality time with my dad, my mom, my daughter and I was rejuvenated,” he said. “I have begun training hard, back to my diet and have lost six kgs in the last three weeks. I am getting stronger,” he added.

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While the tennis tournaments have slowly resumed across the globe, Paes hasn’t featured in any so far but has followed the action closely. He said he would not be surprised if Rafael Nadal betters Roger Federer’s record by winning the French Open. However, he was quick to add that “my champion Djokovic would better all records.”

In its third season, the Tennis Premier League promises to be bigger and better. “I am very excited about the Tennis Premier League Season 3, simply because we are not just coming back after the pandemic, but we are coming back enhanced,” Paes, who is the co-owner of the Mumbai Leon Army and is the mentor of the event, said.

The tournament is set to have a bigger purse this time and if things fall in place, some of India’s leading men and women players will feature in the league.