Tennis legend Leander Paes feels India will find it tough in singles but the country can hope to win a medal in the Asian Games with the men’s doubles team though it remains to be seen who is picked to play alongside the seasoned Rohan Bopanna. “In the Asian Games, in men’s doubles we have a good opportunity of doing well. We have multiple options of teams in the doubles. We have got quite a few players who can play,” Paes said during an event on the eve of the Wimbledon men’s final here on Sunday.
“In singles, when you look at countries historically, like Japan, Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Chinese Taipei, Thailand … it will be a little tougher but in doubles we have a great chance of winning a medal, if not a gold medal.
“It just depends on the combination of teams, who they pick to play with Rohan and who the second team will be.” Paes feels the Indian players will find it tough to keep up with the competition in the international level in next few years and said it is unfortunate that the country does not host important events.
“I think it is going to be a tough time for Indian tennis for the next couple of years. I have tremendous respect for Indian players who are travelling internationally, spending Euros and dollars, spending foreign currency … to have a coach, a trainer, equipment, to get all your flights, hotel, transport,” he said.
“You do not have an association which pays for all of that. Each of us has to do it individually, whereas you have the BCCI which has done such a wonderful job for cricket.
“You have Hockey India, AIFF, Reliance doing it for ISL. But tennis is an individual sport, very much like badminton, or track and field, in there, 99.99 per cent of the tennis tournaments are outside India. There is nothing here.” Paes said the kids are distracted by the ways of the modern world, but took pride in the fact that he was able to inspire many to take up the sport.
“I hope in the next 3-5 or 10 years we see a wave of young players coming through,” he said.
“When I was playing, I proved that Indians could be champions. In 1991, after I won the Wimbledon junior and the junior US Open in September, the growth of the number of Indian kids playing tennis was 4,000 per cent.
“I do not see that today. Gadgets, social media, options of OTT platforms are taking a lot of time off the kids.” Paes said it is important to allow kids the time and scope to pursue the sport they are interested in, alongside studies.
“You go to school for 5-6-7 hours a day, there’s no time for practice in the morning. Instead of getting four sessions of training and technical practice in any sport, you are getting one or maximum two a day.
“In the Western world, kids are doing online schooling and focusing on their sport. They are doing four sessions a day 356 days a year (multiplied) by 10 or 15 years.
“That is why an (Carlos) Alcaraz at the age of 19 is No 1 in the world. Do you see any 19-year-old tennis players in India right now? It is all about repetition, practice and training.”
‘Had a blessed career’
Recalling his childhood days, Paes said: “I personally feel I have a very blessed career. Growing up I used to play gully cricket and football in the maidans of Calcutta (Kolkata). In the last four decades, tennis has given me a lot.
“As a young boy, I wanted to represent India, to emulate what my father had done, to win an Olympic medal. I wanted to prove ‘hum bhi jeet sakte hain’ (that we can also win) – and not just in hockey but in an individual sport. I gave up my passion for football to play tennis.” Paes also fondly recalled his memories of playing in the Wimbledon.
“Today, the joy that Wimbledon brings to me is that India’s name is up on the scrolls. Right next to my name, (it reads) ‘Leander Paes, India’. To see India there brings me great joy.” PTI DDV ATK ATK
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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