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'Leander's greatest strength was his unpredictability'

September 19, 2010 15:35 IST

Anecdotes on Leander Paes flew thick and fast as India's tennis greats, former and present, came together to celebrate the 12-time Grand Slam winner's 21 years of representing the nation in Davis Cup.

Speaking at a felicitation ceremony organised by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to celebrate Paes's achievements, former Davis Cup captain Ramanathan Krishnan rated Paes as one of the greatest athletes of India.

"Leander, Viswanathan Anand and Sachin Tendulkar emerged in the 1990s and became great sportspersons because of their achievements. They broadbased sport in India as more and more youngsters wanted to emulate them," Krishnan said in Chennai.

Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom Paes had won three Grand Slams, said "to perform continuously for 20 years may show up lack of talent in the country. But this is not so in the case of Leander".

Leander PaesInternational Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francesco Rici Bitti's message to Paes was read out by AITA general secretary Anil Khanna. "There are so many positive things to say about your career but to me, the most important is that you are a great ambassador of tennis."

"I can still remember very clearly your junior career and you certainly have more than fulfilled the promise that you showed by winning the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles," Bitti said.

An emotional Paes, on his part, said, "The celebration of my two decades in Davis Cup is actually a celebration of India's Davis Cup saga. I've always been a team man. I stepped down as captain when the team did not want me there."

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent my country and the people," Paes said amidst loud applause.

Paes, who rated his win against Goran Ivanisevic as his best, said, "I also cherish my win against South African Wayne Ferreira."

Praising Bhupathi, Paes said that "it was Mahesh who taught me how to communicate. Perhaps our partnership broke up because of my inability to communicate with him. May be, it would have been great if we had won a few more Grand Slams".

Naresh Kumar, who had amongst others, spotted Paes's talent, thanked him and Bhupathi for changing the face of Indian tennis.

"Leander and Mahesh helped us develop an attitude that made fresh horizons. Leander had a swagger, a swagger of a 'puttani' (a weirdo). His greatest strength was his unpredictability," he said.

Ramesh Krishnan, another former Davis Cupper, referred to Paes as the perfect captain's player. "Leander was ready to play both singles and doubles," Ramesh said.

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