At the start of 2020, Leander Paes had said that this year would be his last as a pro tennis player. But with most of the season now lost to the coronavirus pandemic, the 47-year-old is yet to come to a decision on playing in 2021.
Wimbledon being cancelled for the first time since World War II, Paes missed out to be part of the tournament in his One Last Roar season.
"I miss Wimbledon a lot and it was part of my One Last Roar season which kind of has come short. I haven't made a decision yet whether I will come back in 2021 or not and lot of it will ride on the Olympics. At 47 it is not easy to keep this body young and I'm hoping the vaccine comes out soon and we get back to travel and playing. I will make that decision down the line," Paes told Wimbledon's Facebook Live along with his former doubles partner, Mahesh Bhupathi.
Paes and Bhupathi were one of the successful doubles partners in tennis history -- winning 23 ATP titles and three Grand Slams together. In 1999, the Lee-Hesh duo became the first Indian pair to reach the final of the each of the Grand Slam tournaments. Moreover, they achieved the world no 1 ranking in the same year.
It was a dream come true moment for both Paes and Bhupathi when they won the doubles title at Wimbledon.
"From my tennis career's perspective it was the best feeling I have ever had. My dad took me to Wimbledon the first time when I was 13 and took me again when I was 15. For me it was always a dream to play at Wimbledon and then to win Wimbledon with Leander was the ultimate height to achieve," Bhupathi said.
"No one ever believed we will win Wimbledon, no one ever believed we will be champions, no one ever believed we will be Grand Slam champions or No. 1 in the world. And that year getting to all the Grand Slam finals and winning at Wimbledon was phenomenal and a dream come true," Paes added recollecting the win at Wimbledon in 1999.
With India and the rest of the world now fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Paes and Bhupathi say it is not an easy situation and both are trying their best on their part.
"It is not easy and its been approximately 97 days we have been locked down in Mumbai and we don't live far from each other. But we try to bring in some happiness into the community, like we did with that volley challenge and Mahesh had to go one up with the smaller pan. These are the things that binds us when the going gets tough and we try to do something for the community with our friendship and camaraderie," Paes said.
Bhupathi reiterated to what his former doubles partner said. "Similar situation and it is safety first and both of us have daughters and would do everything in our powers to keep them safe. Also being in a lockdown for three months is no fun and we got to do what we got to do. With the cases rising in India, we are being just ultra careful."
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