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I am about 85 percent fit: Paes
ND Prashant in Doha | December 03, 2006 13:46 IST
Last Updated: December 03, 2006 15:16 IST
Putting a lid for the time being on the controversies surrounding India's most successful doubles team, Leander Paes is confident that he and Mahesh Bhupathi will be able to work their magic at the 15th Asian Games in Doha.
"Being together is interesting, but we can't take anything for granted," said Paes, who arrived for the mega-event in Doha on Saturday.
"There are a lot of good tennis players coming from Asia. Our main competition could come from the Japanese, Koreans and Thais. So be it doubles or mixed doubles, there is competition out there. We have to work hard, we have to stay on the ball. Really, that should be the focus.
"He (Bhupathi) is one of the stalwarts of our team in the doubles. We both are the best in Asia and it's nice to have him there."
The US Open champion also said that the Games would also give him an opportunity to look for a Davis Cup doubles partner for the coming season, since Bhupathi has decided not to represent India anymore in the team event.
"He (Bhupathi) will be missed. There is no doubt about it. But, in his absence, we have to look to youngsters like Karan Rastogi, Rohan Bopanna, myself and Prakash Amritraj," said India's Davis Cup captain.
"The Asian Games is something I have been looking forward to choose my team for the Davis Cup. It is unfortunate that Mahesh is not playing in the Davis Cup. As far as I am concerned, he is always welcome. Since Mahesh reverted his decision to come here, I think that is probably the best way to go."
Paes, who pulled out of the Asian Hopman Cup due to a finger injury, hasn't recovered completely, but is confident of doing well in Doha.
"I would say I am probably about 85-95 percent fit. But I will be playing with my fingers strapped up. I have to still protect this finger as I have torn it and dislocated it at the same time. The swelling is still there. The 2007 professional season starts in two weeks from now. I can't afford further damage. Looking at the way we played at the World Championship, with my fingers strapped up, we were just one shot away from being in the finals or winning the whole thing. So I am confident."
His teaming up with Sania Mirza had raked up a few controversies back home, but Paes brushed aside the talk, saying, "I really don't have anything to say. I am not the one who likes to use the media as a tool. I don't like to scream from the top of the mountain. I rather concentrate on tennis. Now I have a practice at five and I need to be there on time.
"I have my warm-ups, have to work on my backhand and forehand. That's what is important for me.
"I am acclimatised to this place, but this brand new surface is very slow and gravelly. The balls are fluffing up a lot. So technically speaking, it's a slow playing condition. Once the weather heats up a bit, the play can be a bit faster. In this cold, wet conditions, the play will be interesting."
The doubles star rated the Thais and Koreans as favourites when it comes to the tennis singles event.
"As far the singles goes, the competition is even more fierce as tennis has improved so much in Asia. In my opinion, the favourites for the men's singles will be Paradorn Srichaphan and Korean Hyung Taik-Lee. For the simple reason, the playing conditions suit them well."
Paes rated Sania as a gold medal prospect and also notified that Shikha Uberoi and Bhupathi too have a good chance of winning medal in mixed doubles.
"Singles is a lot more competitive. Sania has a great chance of winning a gold here. Her main rival will be (China's) Li Na and some of the Japanese players. Shikha too is talented, physically fit and strong. There is no reason why Mahesh and she cannot come out here and win," asserted Paes.
Paes, playing his fifth Asian Games, felt that the best part of the Games is the Athletes Village.
"Seeing so many athletes of different shapes and size is interesting. Even some of the Chinese, who are usually really short, have some tall players. Few of the boxers are so huge. Even one of our boxers, who shook my hand engulfed my whole hand. He was strong," he laughed.
"That's the best part of the Games. Here you interact and discuss techniques, make new friends. The beauty of the Asian Games is that there is a lot of camaraderie and team work. The interaction between the athletes, not only from your contingent but also others, is great," notified Paes, who will also be focusing on getting a right partner for the forthcoming Davis Cup, based on the performance at the Games.
The 33-year-old also made it clear that he would not let age come in the way of his ambitions.
"I never put a ceiling on things. I am definitely going to aim for my fifth Olympics. I am loving my tennis and I never ever look at the end.
"I am so passionate about the sport and had a fantastic year on the tour. I wouldn't necessarily say this is the last of my Asian Games. When I feel that the time is right, I will stop overnight. I am not the one to drag on."