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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
P E O P L E

LAST WORD
Leander Paes
In a new age, same old magic
Leander was 25 when he beat Pete Sampras. At 40, he continues to stun with his brand of tennis. 

By Rohit Mahajan
I
N the flush of his success at 40, itís easy to forget that nearly a quarter of a century ago, Leander Paes was around, leaving his imprint on public consciousness. In Chandigarh, a slight teenager, he beat a higher-ranked Pakistani player in the final in the Sector 10 stadium in front of a raucous, jingoistic group of college students.

on record
ĎIn many meetings, I am the only womaní
KV Prasad talks to Baroness Sandip Verma, UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change
Amritsar-born Baroness Sandip Verma of Leicester is a Conservative Life Peer who migrated to the United Kingdom as a child. On a recent visit to India and Punjab as Minister, Department of Energy and Climate Change, in the David Cameroon government, she shared her views on work being done by the UK in the sector and her experiences as a woman who came through the ranks in British politics.


SUNDAY SPECIALS

PERSPECTIVE
PEOPLE
KALEIDOSCOPE

PRIME CONCERN




off the cuff

 

in passing 
Sandeep Joshi

Bharat gave the world the zero, now we have the formula for a hero!
Bharat gave the world the zero, now we have the formula for a hero!







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LAST WORD
Leander Paes
In a new age, same old magic
Leander was 25 when he beat Pete Sampras. At 40, he continues to stun with his brand of tennis. 

By Rohit Mahajan

IN the flush of his success at 40, itís easy to forget that nearly a quarter of a century ago, Leander Paes was around, leaving his imprint on public consciousness. In Chandigarh, a slight teenager, he beat a higher-ranked Pakistani player in the final in the Sector 10 stadium in front of a raucous, jingoistic group of college students.

Paes had a spark in his game; he had electric volleys and quick feet and quicker hands; he had a glitter in his eye; even then, he seemed to be able to make eye contact with each of his supporters in the crowd, rouse him to frenzy.

He retains the magic. Itís another age, another era, but Paes remains the same man of sentiment ó watch him lifting his doubles partner, Radek Stepanek, after reaching the semifinals; or locking eyes with Stepanek in a shared moment of furious delight after beating the Bryan Brothers in the semifinals.

The two went on to win the final; Paes became the oldest man in the Open era (beginning 1968) to win a Grand Slam title. This was his 14th Grand Slam title, won at the age of 40 years and three months. Itís an incredible feat for a man who ó it seemed at the time ó had peaked as a player in the mid to late 1990s.

Itís easy to imagine that Paes is living his second life as a tennis player. Itís possible to believe that 15 years ago, at the age of 25, he had extended his ability as a tennis player to the maximum. He had won a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games; that was Indiaís first Olympics medal after 1980, and the first individual medal after 1952. Two years later, in July 1998, he won his only ATP title, at Newport. The next month, in August 1998, he beat Pete Sampras 6-3, 6-4 at New Haven.

For any middling tennis player of the pre-Roger Federer era, beating Sampras was acme of achievement. Paes was 25. His singles career ó during which he had scored some remarkable wins over superior players in Davis Cup ó was on the wane. As tennis became more and more a power game, his serve and groundstrokes were not going to challenge the bigger, stronger players. He seemed destined to first drop off the Majors, then off the ATP events, then to be found only on the Challenger circuit where young careers blossom and old careers wither.

Love-hate partner

But Paes reinvented himself, in the company of the man he came to love and hate. In 1997, Mahesh Bhupathi had won the French Open mixed doubles title with Japanese player Rika Hiraki. Paes was not going to do much as a singles player then on; Bhupathi was not going to be much of a singles player anyway. The two united. Paes got a second lease of life as a player, Bhupathi got a terrific partner, and India finally got Grand Slam champions of their own.

Doubles players thrive on emotion; they feed off each otherís passion and energy. Singles players are on their own. Itís difficult and can get depressing in lonely places, when the results are bad. Doubles play provides a support system to the players. It seems to prolong their careers, for burden shared is burden lightened. There are several doubles specialists who had notably long careers ó Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde of Australia, or the Bryan Brothers of the US, or Martina Navratilova in her second avtar, or Paes and Bhupathi of India.

It can be argued, too, that the exit of the top players from the doubles events provided the lesser players the possibility of greater Grand Slam glory. In the 1990s, fewer and fewer top players were troubling themselves with the doubles, except at the Olympics or the Davis Cup. Thus came more and more doubles teams which only occasionally dabbled in the singles.

The year after his best results in singles, Paes began to concentrate on the doubles. In 1998, Paes and Bhupathi had reached the semifinals of three Grand Slam events. The next year, they became the first team since 1951 to reach the finals of all Grand Slams. They won two titles in 1999.

Paesís first three menís doubles Grand Slam titles came with Bhupathi. They won nothing together after 2001. Their relationship soured and they separated. They rejoined on occasion, but the old magic was gone. They never won an Olympics medal, which seemed almost a certainty when they were at their pomp, for India.

Never say die

Since then, Paes won Grand Slam titles with Lukas Dlouhy and Stepanek among the men, and with a host of ladies in mixed doubles. This list includes the legendary Navratilova, who herself won a mixed doubles Grand Slam title just short of 40.

Paes credits Navratilova for helping him prolong his career. ďPlaying with Martina for many many years, I have learnt a lot. I have learnt how to live a clean lifestyle and be productive towards my tennis,Ē he said after his recent win.

In 2003, soon after Paes won the Wimbledon title with Navratilova, there were worries about his health. It was feared that he could be suffering from brain tumour. Luckily, it turned out to be parasitic infection.

ďThese are the obstacles that life throws at you,Ē he had said. ďIím very blessed that the brain tumour didnít happen.Ē

That seems such a long time ago. The geriatric, sprightly champion continues to live a grand old championís life.

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on record
ĎIn many meetings, I am the only womaní
KV Prasad talks to Baroness Sandip Verma, UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change

Amritsar-born Baroness Sandip Verma of Leicester is a Conservative Life Peer who migrated to the United Kingdom as a child. On a recent visit to India and Punjab as Minister, Department of Energy and Climate Change, in the David Cameroon government, she shared her views on work being done by the UK in the sector and her experiences as a woman who came through the ranks in British politics.

What brought you to India and how do you see your visit?

The purpose was to look at programmes we are supporting here and interact with politicians at the local, national and state level. To see the lot of good work NGOs are doing here on the ground and making sure we are all speaking about the same common goal that has been apparent. I see relations between the UK and India as very important. Prime Minister David Cameroon sees it that way too and that is why he assigned a minister to visit India frequently. He is committed to the UK being one the cleanest and greenest. We are committed to exchanging knowledge on that and India has shown the willingness.

Any impressions on the level of commitment of local leaders in empowering people, since they work at the grassroots level?

The most important is how you translate a wish into delivery. We had fruitful interaction at the roundtable in Chandigarh that was attended by local politicians from various parties. There was consensus that something needs to be done, and to see how we get it implemented without making it a political issue. It has to work for the country and planet. We launched a toolkit and saw good projects in Chandigarh and Ropar, where we saw collaboration between Aston University and IIT-Ropar. The UK is committed to 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

India has an issue on financing clean technology. Is there a programme to support it?

Britain has committed 4 billion pounds to the Climate Change Fund and we are working closely through the Department for International Development (UK) and engagement with politicians. I am the first minister to visit Chandigarh and hopefully the Deputy High Commission will be able to bring parties together. UK Trade & Investment is another strong partner. We will make sure those who seek knowledge exchange or technical assistance get it.

Any memories of Amritsar? Have you visited the city on an earlier occasion too?

If cannot be in India and not touch Amritsar. The last I came was when my father passed away; there is a tradition of immersing the ashes in the Beas. Being born in Amritsar, there is a strong feeling of connect; I feel Amritsar has something special about it. In fact, when Prime Minister Cameroon visited, he too noticed it was a very special place.

Do you hold any special memories of the city or relate to in your daily life?

I am a typical Punjabi, and I need to have my paranthas every day! I notice how the Golden Temple is adapting a water management system. It is a good example of how tradition can meet technology.

You are said to have chosen politics for a career as you were impressed by a politician who visited your school. What have been your challenges on this path as a woman?

The person who impressed me to join politics now sits opposite me in the House of Lords, Lord [Greville] Jenner. He was a very good MP. Politicians can motivate the young to take to politics and can ignite an energy in them. He told me how important I was for the country. I grew up in the UK at a time when racism was prevalent and no race-related laws to protect you. I was one of the two non-White students in the class and the comment was a life-changing moment.

Since then I have been looking at discrimination and working to ensure opportunity is available to everyone. It was incredibly difficult for me. I knew nobody in the political arena. It is a struggle if you are from a minority, and being a woman it is even harder. All political parties in the UK have a long way to go. But once you are in the system, you have to deliver. I am in a department that is technical, and I end up in meetings where there are few women. That just shows me how much more needs to be done to bring in diversity.

Political parties across the world are working on attracting the youth to politics.

The political process is to go out and engage, have a conversation. I spend a lot of time talking to young people and womenís groups. There have to be role models for the youth and women to follow.

How about the changing political landscape in Britain?

We have a vibrant diaspora in various fields. It will thus shape future governments. In fact, thatís happening already. British-Indians are beginning to look at politics the same way a typical Briton would.

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off the cuff



It's beyond our means to right every wrong. But if, with modest effort, we can stop children from being gassed and thereby make our own kids safer over the long run, we should act.

Barack obama, US President
Justifying action against Syria

 



I don't know if his hands are paralysed when it comes to signing files. Files are pending for three months. However, I will keep quiet as we have to go together (for the polls).

Sharad Pawar, NCP President
Taking a dig at Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan

 



Poori roti khayenge, 100 din kaam karenge, davai lenge aur Congress ko layenge (we will eat full roti, work for 100 days, get free medicine and bring Congress to power).

Rahul Gandhi, Congress vice-president
Addressing adivasis at Salumber in Rajasthan

 



I don't go for award functions or parties. I have a problem with them. I don't enjoy that space. My kind of crowd is regular. I'm principled in that way. Maybe it's my shortcoming or my way of thinking.

John Abraham, Bollywood Actor
Commenting on parties

 



Dhoni may not be as good looking as Imran Khan but he has all the qualities of Imran as a captain and player. He has given Indian cricket a new direction and life. He has turned it around.

Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan Cricketer
On Mahendra Singh Dhoni 

 

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