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Vardhan up there with one of the best partners I've had: Paes

Last updated on: August 2, 2012 17:18 IST

Vardhan up there with one of the best partners I've had: Paes

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Harish Kotian

Where there is a will, there is a way!

And this adage holds true for Leander Paes, as he nearly pulled off the impossible at the London Olympics on Wednesday.

- London Olympics 2012 - Complete coverage

- Paes-Vardhan go down fighting to Tsonga-Llodra

The veteran tennis ace was given a raw deal as far as team selection for the men's doubles was concerned, with both Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi refusing to pair with him at the Games. The latter even called him a "back-stabber" in public as the duo was named as the second team for the men's doubles while Paes had to team up with lower-ranked Vishnu Vardhan.

But Paes refused to get into the war of words. Instead, he focused all his energy on getting his young partner Vardhan ready for the Olympics by training with him for the last month or so.

And despite having not much time to prepare themselves for the men's doubles, the duo fought till the very last point before bowing out in the second round of the men's doubles.

Paes and Vardhan went down fighting 6-7, 6-4, 3-6 to the French combine of Jo-Wilfried Tsong and Michael Llodra.

Despite the narrow defeat, Paes was a proud man at the end of it. He found it difficult to control his emotions and even shed a few tears, saying he played one of the best matches of his career.

"Actually, I have got tears in my eyes, because I am emotional about it.  It is pretty simple to see what has been going around. Most of you guys have been around my career. I am emotional about playing for my country, emotional about the people, emotional about this young kid, Vishnu.

"We did something special today and he got me to play with my heart," Paes said.


Image: vishnu Vardhan (right) with Leander Paes
Photographs: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

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'Leander always made me keep my head high'

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The tennis ace showered rich praise on Vardhan, who was playing his first Olympics and, perhaps, the biggest tournament of his life.

"It is a treat to play with him. I have played with many partners and I think Vish is my 94th partner, and I tell you he is up there with some of the best. I may not have won a Grand Slam with him yet, but he is up there with some of the best. I can play my natural game, he plays his natural game, we joke, we laugh, we smile, we pull each other's leg, I lead naturally and when I am not leading he leads, which is unbelievable," Paes said.

"I can't ask for anything more from a young lad from India, who respects people, who comes out there and respects the game, respects life, respects playing for the flag and the people. It is a treat for me to play with him and I am so happy that I played my sixth Olympics with Vishnu. He is a good kid," he added.

Vardhan could not thank Paes enough for giving him the opportunity to partner him in the men's doubles.

"Right now, being a partner of Leander and getting to know him as a person, it is amazing, and I can't thank him enough for the opportunity and the way he has been working on me and the team has been working on me," Vardhan said.

"He didn't need to do all this, but he has done it all. Especially if you see the first match, I wasn't there in the first match, but he took over. He was so calm, especially when I messed up in the second set in the first match. It was because of me that Leander's serve was broken, but he kept smiling, kept me going. He always made me keep my head high and that's how I got my confidence and we played a beautiful third set," Vardhan added.


Image: Vishnu Vardhan
Photographs: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

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'I want to see Vardhan, Somdev feel proud of my legacy'

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He also credited Paes for bringing out the best in him.

"Today I played one of the best tennis I could ever play and it is all thanks to Leander. As the match progressed, my game was improving and I could not believe that. In a two-three hour match I could improve my game so much, I just could not believe that. That is how Leander is and he has always nurtured talent," he said.

Paes pointed out that he is looking at young players in Vardhan and Somdev Devvarman to take Indian tennis to the next level.

"I know one day the curtain will close and I will have to leave it for champs like Vishnu. And I know that when I finish I am going to sit back with a proud feeling that I gave it everything I got. I may stop at the end of this year; I may stop in five years from now, but when I do finish I want to see these guys working hard and feel proud of the legacy I have left behind."

Vardhan also said he has learnt a lot from Paes.

"The biggest thing I have learnt from playing with Leander is that he does not play for himself, he plays for the sport and that is something incredible. If you see the effort that I put today and if you see the effort that I put in the regular matches, it is so different. I have learnt from him that once he gets on to the court he does not play for himself, he plays for the sport, he plays for the flag, he plays for the country. I think every tennis player should learn from him," the youngster said.


Image: Leander Paes
Photographs: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

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