Former India hockey Olympian Dr Vece Paes described his son Leander's triumph alongside David Rikl over Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi at the French Open as a "very vital win" and thanked tennis legend Martina Navratilova for rekindling Leander's zest for the game.
"It was an emotionally exhausting match for both Lee and Mahesh. It is good that Lee and Rikl won in the end. Now they will be high on confidence and must go all out to win the title," the senior Paes said in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Paes and his partner Rikl fought back after dropping the first set to carve out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Bhupathi and Mirnyi on court two at the Rolland Garros on Tuesday.
"Both Lee and Mahesh are professionals and in that sense it was just another match for them. But the media is very emotionally attached to their progress in the circuit. They are constantly compared. In that sense it was a very vital win," the 1972 Olympian said.
Asked how Leander felt after the match, Paes said his son was more relieved than excited.
"They have been playing against each other off and on. Lee is now focussing on the semi-final."
The former world number one in doubles, Mahesh and Leander, who were nicknamed 'Indian Express' for their all-conquering run in 1999, split for the second time last year and have been playing with overseas partners ever since.
Giving credit to Navratilova, who partnered Leander to the Australian Open mixed doubles title this year, for remotivating his son, the senior Paes said, "After 13 years on the circuit, his body was hurting. He was tired. He was thinking of retiring. But seeing Martina so keyed up at the age of 46 infused a new vigour and energy in Leander."
Paes said late last year Leander was planning to hang up his boots after one more season. "But he was so inspired by Navratilova that he is now keen to continue for three to five years more. As such, I must say that Martina has played a huge role in Leander's comeback."