Paes Looks To Inspire India's Rising Stars
Former World No. 1 competed this week in Pune
After leading the way for tennis in India for more than 20 years, Leander Paes is now beginning to focus some of his energy on the rising stars of the sport in his country.
The 43-year-old doubles specialist competed in a Challenger at home for the first time since 1997 at this week’s $50,000 event in Pune. Paes teamed up with fellow Indian Ramkumar Ramanathan in the doubles draw. Although he had the option to compete with a higher-ranked player, the former World No. 1 in doubles said it was important to help other Indian players competing in Challengers.
"I could have brought any other regular partner with whom I play on the ATP World Tour, but to support Ram and play with him was great fun,” said Paes to Indian outlet First Post. “I also played with Saketh Myneni in Davis Cup and it would be great to get a chance to play with him in the future.”
With Indian players filling up 18 of the 32 main draw singles spots in Pune, Paes has gotten a first-hand look this week at the state of tennis in the country and is impressed by what he’s seen.
“I’m quite excited to see the number of youngsters here who are taking up tennis,” said Paes. “There are so many options to choose from for a doubles partner now.”
Paes said he is still looking to choose a full-time doubles partner for the 2017 season as he aims to win another Grand Slam title. But he’s hopeful that by the time his storied career comes to a close, there will be other Indian players on the ATP World Tour who are ready to fly the flag in his absence.
"At this stage of my career, I feel it's my job to motivate these youngsters, help them with their game and take part in home tournaments,” said Paes. "I’m still hungry and passionate about tennis. I’m looking to spread how tennis can be a great profession and create passion for it. If we can do that, a bigger group may be playing tennis in four years.”