SPORTS & WELLNESS
Leander stands tall still...
Leander Paes partnered Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia to lift the doublesí title in the recent Chennai Open ATP event. He has once again proved that age is no bar in maintaining his winning spree. M. S. Unnikrishnan reports on how Paes has conquered new
goalposts with each successive win
old war horse is still going strong at 38 years, heís setting
new goals, and shifting goalposts far, to conquer new frontiers
on the tennis horizon. Leanderís wins are remarkable,
considering the inability of the younger lot like Somdev
Devvarman, Yukhi Bhambri and Rohan Bopanna to make their marks
in big-ticket events.
partnered Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia to lift the doubles title
in the Chennai Open ATP event recently. The Indo-Serbian pair
downed the Israeli duo of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram in
straight sets 6-4, 6-4 to win the title, which was Leanderís
first after parting company with Mahesh Bhupathi. Leander split
with Mahesh when the latter decided to pair up with Rohan
Bopanna. Bopanna has had a successful run in various tournaments
across the world last year with Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan.
Incidentally, Erlich and Ram had beaten Bhupathi and Bopanna in
the semi-final before falling prey to Leander and Tipsarevic in
the title contest.
While Mahesh Bhupathi (right) has opted for Rohan Bopanna as his doublesí partner, Leander Paes has not made up his mind on his partner Photo: AFP
It was Leanderís
sixth doubles title in the Chennai Open, though in the previous
five occasions, Bhupathi was his winning partner. After the loss
in the singles, Tipsarevic was eager to annex at least the
doubles crown, and it was a proud moment for the Serbian when he
absorbed Leanderís tips to play the winning role on way to his
maiden doubles title.
This year, the
Chennai Open was a sad spectacle, as shorn of the usual
razzmatazz, the event elicited little spectator response,
barring the semi-finals and finals. It is strange that the
biggest tennis event hosted by India does not attract fans,
though Chennai has the reputation of being a city with hordes of
tennis-playing, knowledgeable fans. Perhaps, fansí
expectations had risen markedly after being treated to
high-quality tennis in the past. The likes of Rafael Nadal had
been to the Chennai Open thrice, before he became a rage on the
Grand Slam stage, and beyond the reach of the Indian ATP event.
This fact was confirmed by organising committee chairman Karthik
Chidambaram. Unless the Chennai event gets a nice makeover,
major players will skip the event for greener pastures, in
partnered Tipsarevic for the first time in the 250-point Chennai
ATP event, and would partner Radek Stepanek in the Australian
Open, he has not made up his mind as to whom he would`pair up in
the other Grand Slam events before the Olympics, and, most
importantly, the 2012 London Olympics. The intent of Leander and
Bhupathi patching up after a long separation was with an eye on
the London Olympics. But they could not win a single Grand Slam
event last year, nor`any major ATP event either. And hence they
split, as Bhupathi preferred to partner the younger`Bopanna,
whom he had played a major role`in grooming, as a mentor and
guide. Moreover, Bopanna had honed`his tennis skills at the
Bhupathi tennis village in Bangalore, and it was thus a natural
progression for the two Southern stars to join hands, with the
Olympics`as their main target.'
Leander Paes and Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia with the winnersí trophy after the Chennai Open ATP event
to sign off his glorious career with an Olympic gold in his
kitty, though heís unsure of whom to partner. Leander has been
the most successful Indian tennis player, whose credentials are
impeccable. He has the distinction of winning the second
individual Olympic medal for Indiaóa bronze at the 1996
Atlanta Gamesówhich came 45 years after K.D.Jhadhav struck a
wrestling bronze in the Olympics. And 16 years on, the fire in
Leanderís belly for an Olympic gold has only raged.
The tragedy of
Indian tennis is that though thousands of boys and girls `play
the game across the country, most of them wither away at the
junior level, as not many are willing to rough it out to reach
the top. `And the few who show promise, never live up to their
potential and talent. The likes of Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvrman
and Yukhi Bhambri are examples of talent going astray, with
their shift in focus, though much is still expected from Bhambri
and Somdev. Bhambhri had promised much when he won the
Junior`Australian Grand Slam event two years ago. Though since
then, he has opted to play with the big boys in the menís
section, Bhambhriís career has not shaped up as expected.
Leander`Paes too had majored into the menís circuit after
winning the Wimbledon and the US Open junior crowns in 1990 and
1991, respectively, and`A0see where heís today.
continues to be an inspiration for the younger players, but only
if they had his commitment and drive to succeed where it
Leander has three Grand Slam
events before the Olympics to firm up his doubles partnership,
but whether he would rejoin Bhupathiís company for the Olympic
campaign, would depend on many factors, including the stance
that would be taken by the All India Tennis Federation. For, the
countryís interest should come before personal ego clashes, or
clashes of interest.