The iconic Leander Paes has ruled out immediate retirement from the competitive tennis, saying his comments were misconstrued and he actually aims to capture another Chennai Open trophy next year and motivate his new partner to win his maiden Grand Slam title.
Paes and Brazilian Andre Sa began the 2017 season with a defeat against Indian team of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan in the opening round on Wednesday night.
"I hope to be back and I hope to be holding this trophy again," Paes replied when asked if he has played his last Chennai Open, where he is the most successful player till date.
Paes has six Chennai Open trophies in his overflowing cupboard, five with Mahesh Bhupathi (1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2011) and the sixth and the last with the Serbian Janko Tipsarevic (2012).
"I will keep playing hard and keep playing strong. I think there was a bit of misunderstanding the other day when Somdev pronounced retirement. Someone asked me a question and I said, it could be today, tomorrow or six months or somewhere down the track and all of a sudden it became like if Leander is retiring," Paes, winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, said.
"Things were put of context but that’s fine. I still love my tennis, I am really passionate about it."
It is not an ideal start to his partnership with 111th teammate but Paes said he has belief in the abilities of the Brazilian, who is yet to win a Grand Slam.
39-year-old Sa’s best performance has been a singles quarterfinal finish at the Wimbledon in 2002 and the Wimbledon doubles semifinals in 2007 with fellow Brazilian Marcelo Melo.
"I want to motivate this guy to win a Grand Slam, that’s what I want to do," Paes said.
"For me, it’s about going back to the drawing board. It’s one thing to put a team together but my forte is to get this team to win. We believe in each other, results will come.
"When you keep working hard, luck favours the hard- working. Luck favours the brave. It’s not rocket science to win. You put in the hard work, it will come. And I have good belief in this man, I am going to stick with him," Paes said emphasizing that this partnership will be there throughout the season.
While Paes has already crossed 40s, Sa is 39. Asked if age will affect them when they are out there competing with younger and fitter players, both Paes and Sa rebuffed the suggestion.
Sa said, “It’s not tricky. We had long careers, we are pretty good athletes and we are in good shape. It won’t give us any trouble. I am pretty fit and he was moving at the net, like he moved in 90s. He is the same. I don’t think age is going to be a factor."
The Brazilian also spoke on how this partnership came about.
"We know each other for long. I had just split with my partner and he was also looking for a new partner. It came naturally. He gave me a call and I thought it was a good idea."
Paes also downplayed the defeat in their first match as a team.
"Some seasons you jump out of the gate and end up winning the first week of the year and continue well from there. Some seasons you start well but don’t do well after that and this season we have not started well but it’s just one match."
Sa, who arrived in Chennai only a day before the match, refused the suggestions that his late arrival did not give him enough time to acclimatise to the conditions.
"I don’t think so. I won’t make excuses. Like he said, it’s just one match. I got here in afternoon. We had enough hits on the centre court and outside courts, it’s just that we were outplayed. That’s the way it is and we need to move on from here."