The last few years have been low-key for Indian tennis and Leander Paes, one of the icons of the game, believes that it would take another seven to eight years to produce a Grand Slam champion from the country.
“I think after the retirement of our Grand Slam champions in India, we have seen a bit of a lull. [But] the number of kids playing has grown a lot.
I think a Tennis Premier League is a front-runner in encouraging that ... But yes, I think it will take a good seven to eight years to build champions again in the Grand Slam level and at the top level,” Paes said on the sidelines of launching his new Tennis Premier League (TPL) team - the Bengal Wizards - on Monday.
Co-owning the team with Yatin Gupte, Paes revealed that when the fifth edition of the TPL gets underway in December, a few Grand Slam winners would be seen in action.
“This year, we are looking to have the tournament in Pune and Mumbai. We are also in conversation with several people about expanding the tournament to other cities and also internationally,” he said.
A close eye on Roland Garros
Paes is also closely following the French Open and is expecting a semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.
“It’s going to be interesting in the semifinals because that’s the way the draw has come. If Djokovic, who is my favourite, and Alcaraz can both win their matches and get to play each other in the semifinals, it will be a huge game to watch,” Paes said.
In the women’s category, he has his money on Iga Świątek.
“Especially on the clay she is formidable. Her power and athleticism is incredible. She can handle slippery surfaces with all the sliding and moving and that makes her the front-runner for the title…”
Among the Indians, Rohan Bopanna will team up with his Australian partner Matthew Ebden in the doubles.
“Rohan is a really good player and he also is playing with a great player, Matthew, who’s one of my favourite partners I had. He is also a Wimbledon champion So, Rohan is very lucky to have such a very experienced partner with him to get through tough moments,” he said.
Having made his Grand Slam debut in 2006, Rohan won the 2017 French Open after clinching the mixed doubles crown with Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski. “Rohan’s talent and ability to hit a tennis ball has been spectacular, but to take that experience of Ebden enhances it and it’s a great opportunity for all…” Paes said.
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