Life has come a full circle for Leander Paes

Life has come a full circle for Leander Paes, who will be playing his 53rd Davis Cup tie in the city where he had made his debut in February 1990.

The 43-year-old Paes has a 48-22 record in singles and 41-11 win-loss score in doubles in Davis Cup.   -  AP

Life has come a full circle for Leander Paes, who will be playing his 53rd Davis Cup tie in the city where he had made his debut in February 1990.

‘’My buddy in that tie, Zeeshan Ali, is the coach now. He had played Olympics in 1988, when it returned to the Games. He will be the coach of the Indian tennis team this time in Rio. I had won my ITF junior title here. A lot of memories in this place. I remember the students of DAV College cheering us’’, said Paes, after a nice workout with Bopanna at the Chandigarh Club.

The 43-year-old Paes has a 48-22 record in singles and 41-11 win-loss score in doubles in Davis Cup. It was an aberration when he and Bopanna lost without a fight to the Czech in Delhi in the World Group play-off last September. Equally, it was difficult to visualise the two playing the next tie in the Asia-Oceania zone, even though their partnership for the Rio Olympics was a foregone conclusion.

The grass courts should help in the peace initiative, between the two warring stars, as the attempt is basically to wipe away the bitterness emerging out of the doubles combinations that were proposed and discussed for the Rio Olympics.

‘’I have a lot of respect for Rohan, and he has a lot of respect for me. A few things get blown out of proportion in the media. But, when it comes to putting the best foot forward for the country, we forget everything and play our best. We had come back from being two sets down against Serbia in Bengaluru’’, recalled Paes, as he emphasised the explosive potential of the combination between him and Bopanna.

Saying that he would be playing in Europe before the World Team Tennis in the US over the next few weeks, Paes stressed that he would have adequate practice with Bopanna in Rio before the Games.

‘’I have spoken to a lot of people about Rio. My friend from Brazil, Bruno Soares gave a lot of details. So, I have a clear idea. The margin of victory and defeat is very thin. It was this close in Athens’’, said Paes, as he put his index finger and thumb close to each other in emphasising the margin.

Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had lost to the Croats, Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic, in the bronze medal play-off in Athens Olympics, when the third set alone lasted two hours and 20 minutes.

On his part, Zeeshan Ali recalled his match in the Seoul Olympics in 1988 when he lost to Jakob Hlasek in the second round 4-6, 5-7, 5-7, after making the draw as a qualifier.

As the captain of the peace keeping force in the Indian Olympic team, the 46-year-old Zeeshan would attempt to guide the bunch of talented players to a medal this time in Rio.

‘’Life looks at things from 360 degrees. Before the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, you would have said that I stood no chance to win a medal, with the game I played. But, I have the medal’’, said Paes, the evergreen hero of Indian tennis.

Who knows, Paes is perhaps destined to win a second medal in his seventh Olympics! For, Paes and Bopanna can really strike it hard and hot, if they put their mind on the job.