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Leander Paes forty and still firing

Last updated on: June 17, 2013 12:06 IST

Leander Paes forty and still firing

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Leander Paes has over the years brought a lot of joy to tennis lovers across the nation. As the legend turns 40 on Monday, Rediff.com goes looks back on his career highs.

Born to Olympian Vece and Jennifer Paes in Goa, Leander took to tennis very early. He learned his basics at the Britannia-Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai. His hardwork paid off when he won the Wimbledon boys’ titles in 1990 and rose to No 1 in the rankings the same year.


Image: Leander Paes


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Leander Paes forty and still firing

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He repeated the success the following year, winning the US Open junior crown.

Paes later helped India taste success in the Davis Cup, beating the likes of Wayne Ferreira and then World No 6 Goran Ivanisevic (in 1995) to help India qualify in the World Group.


Image: Leander Paes
Photographs: Simon Bruty /Allsport/Getty Images

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Leander Paes forty and still firing

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His proudest moment came at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He braved a severe wrist injury and some quality tennis by Fernando Meligeni to clinch the bronze medal.

In the process, he became the first Indian to win an an individual medal since wrestler K D Jadhav won bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

The government recognised his achievements by conferring on him the Rajiv Khel Ratna the same year.


Image: Leander Paes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics
Photographs: Gary M. Prior/ Getty Images

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Leander Paes forty and still firing

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The confidence boost the medal gave him was undeniable. In 1998 he won an ATP singles title at Newport and then beat 14-time Grand Slam winner and then World No. 2 Pete Sampras in pre-quarter-finals of the New Haven ATP meet.

His ascendency made him a force to reckon with on the Indian tennis circuit. In 1999, a landmark year, he and partner Mahesh Bhupathi reached the final of all four Grand Slam tournaments, winning Wimbledon and the French Open. They were the first Indian pair to win the doubles at a Grand Slam and become the World No 1 doubles team that year.


Image: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi


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The turn of the century brought Leander more accolades. He was given the honour of carrying the national flag at the Opening of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In 2001, he and Bhupathi added another Grand Slam title to their kitty, winning the French Open.

The duo brought home gold at the 2002 Busan Asian Games and later in the year Paes was conferred the Padma Shri.


Image: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi enroute to their 2001 French Open crown
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

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Leander Paes forty and still firing

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Leander’s sweat and toil bore results when he partnered the legendary Martina Navratilova to claim the mixed doubles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2003.

Age, personal and professional hurdles didn’t dampen his drive. He struck gold at the Doha Asian Games in 2006, winning two gold -- in the men's doubles (partnering Bhupathi) and mixed doubles (partnering Sania Mirza).

His next Grand Slam success was at the US Open in 2006 when he won the doubles event with Martin Damm.

Partnering Cara Black, he also won the mixed doubles in 2008.


Image: Martina Navratilova of the U.S. and Leander Paes of India in action
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Paes completed a career Slam, winning the Australian Open with Czech Radek Stepanek in 2012.

He also became the first Indian to participate in six Olympics at the 2012 London Olympics.

His Grand Slam record reads: 29 Grand Slam (men’s and mixed) doubles finals; 13.Wins: 7 men’s doubles titles (3 French Open, 2 US Open, 1 Wimbledon, 1 Australian Open); 6 mixed doubles titles (3 with Cara Black, 2 with Martina Navratilova, 1 with Lisa Raymond).


Image: Leander Paes


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