“The next time anyone calls you old, tell them that you are half my age and have a lifetime to live,” Leander Paes said that’s what his neighbour told him.
When the whole country is speculating about 40-year-old Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, Paes, who is also of the same age, is never far away from the same question.
“As long as I am happy, not lonely and I enjoy the game, the show must go on,” Paes said after being felicitated at the Khar Gymkhana for winning the US Open men’s doubles title recently.
“Both Sachin and Vishy (Vishwanathan Anand) have been my contemporaries. Sachin’s contribution is unquestionable. We were not only born at the same time but we had a same sort of journey in our respective careers.
“Though the physical attribute of chess is not recognised but having known Vishy, I know how much he trains to keep his mind, body and soul to maintain his concentration,” Paes said.
Paes added that he still has lot of tennis left in him and is eyeing 2016 Rio Olympics.
“The last Olympics left a bad taste in the mouth. However, gearing up for Rio is the biggest motivating factor for me but I have to ensure both my form and health hold me in good stead.
“I have to make sure I am ready.”
The audience gave the legend a standing ovation after he spoke about his game and how he is still a student of his craft. “I still need to improve my game around the baseline. I keep watching Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic to learn the balance they have on court.”
Despite many accolades coming his way, Paes said he believes he is yet to perfect his game and asserted that it is possible if one can get his body and mind to it. Age is not a factor.
Paes’ next target is the World Championships and a couple of preparatory tournaments leading to that.
“I leave on Sunday for Thai Open, Chinese Open. It is going to give me a couple of months to prepare for a trophy that is missing from my cabinet.”
He concluded stating how blessed he felt to have the support of people. “People have been supporting me for 27 years now. When the economy is getting tough day by day, people still reach out to their pockets to buy a ticket for my match. That keeps me going. If a kid picks up the racket after watching my game, that’s where I score.”