There’s still some gas left in the tank. The magic was dredged out by Leander Paes, somewhere from deep within, as he along with younger partner Saketh Myneni made the Olympic gold medal winning Spanish duo of Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez sweat in order to register a win in the doubles’ rubber of the Davis Cup World Group play off at the RK Khanna Tennis stadium. With this win, Spain sealed an unassailable 3-0 victory to make a place for themselves back in the World Group for the next year. After the high voltage match, Paes declared that he still has some motivation stored inside him- enough to not call time on his retirement any time soon.
There was that drop volley that left the packed crowd gasping and Nadal and Lopez looking worried; shrewdly placed serves and masterful returns reminded tennis fans in the stadium and all over the world why Paes is the maestro of spinning magic in Davis Cup. It made a Spanish mediaperson shake his head, calling him an “artiste”. The 43 year old has reserved a very special place for himself in the annals of India’s Davis Cup history. He even had a glare and verbal volley reserved for the linesman who called a foot fault on his serve.
Not that Paes doesn’t have his share of detractors both in Indian tennis and outside. The numbers, sadly, have only been growing recently. A poor Rio Olympics outing, after much ado over who will partner who in Rio, spurred questions on whether it was time to call the curtains down on his illustrious career. Hitherto murmured criticisms only grew louder when he reiterated before and through Rio Olympics that he was playing for his record of 7 Olympic appearances. He even warned his detractors that the eighth – a possible appearance in Tokyo at age 47 in Indian colours- was a possibility.
After losing the Davis Cup doubles match which lasted for 2 hours and thirty four minutes in four sets, Paes dashed his critics hopes of impending retirement thoughts. “I am not going to retire until I get the record for most doubles wins in Davis Cup. I wish I could have got the record, but unfortunately it will have to wait. I am not retiring anytime soon.”
Paes is looking to overhaul Nicolla Pietrangeli’s record for most doubles win. Currently, he is tied with the Italian, who retired way back in 1973, at 42 wins. Meanwhile, in a warning, Paes has stated that he would rather get his record in front of the home crowd.