An emotional Leander Paes did not hide his disappointment after losing the first round men’s doubles match with Rohan Bopanna stating that he has “become a soft target” and that is the reason why people are “taking potshots” at him.
Paes was furious at reports of him not allegedly wanting to share a room with Bopanna and then also going on record about not being allotted room in the Games Village.
Asked about whether the sheen has been taken off without a doubles Olympic medal in cabinet, Paes said:”It should have been about celebrating a career. I am in a position of being the soft target, so a lot of guys wanna (sic) take shots at me. Fine, go for it. I am also just another human being, trying my best. But Leander is soft target. I will keep going as I am resilient. I know a lot of stories are being fed.”
His answer was all laced with sarcasm when he said that some people were trying to pull him down when they did not even know what it takes to win one Grand Slam.
“Not many people understand what it takes to win one Grand Slam. Not many people understand what it takes to win 10 Grand Slams. Not many people understand what it takes to win 18 Grand Slams. Not many also understand what getting to seven Olympics takes.
“May be how do I view it, I may be wrong, am asking for help. May be you all can tell me how to view it. May be you pull Lee down to this level so that you can understand what it takes.”
Paes said if he could manage to remain injury free, he would love to play his eighth Olympics at Tokyo in 2020.
“Four years is a long time away and you don’t think so far down the track. As of now, I am disappointed with today. I haven’t had a chance to enjoy the seventh yet. There is a lot of hard work you need to do to continue playing at this age.
“Would I love to be in Tokyo and get my eighth? Yes 100 per cent. I can do it. But for me it is about keeping the physical body healthy. Keeping the mind happy and to play for the country is the greatest joy. I have said it for the last 28 years…to play it for you. It is my dream. If I continue working hard. Enjoy my tennis and stay injury free, then it will be good,” said Paes.
He admitted there were things in his Olympic career that where incomplete like never winning a medal in doubles.
“Athens moment was tough as far as doubles is concerned at the Olympics. That was not a happy moment. Match point at some stage…bronze medal match. We had a match point to win the medal but it didn’t happen and it always plays in my head,” said Paes.
“Beauty of the past is you cannot change it, you can only learn from it.”
On how he remains so positive, the legendary player said, “It is not easy. I look for positive energy. I go for the truth. Go for what’s right and stand for what’s right.”
Asked to pick three awesome moments from his Olympic career apart from his 1996 bronze medal at Atlanta Games, Paes said: “Barcelona…my first Olympics. Walking in to the opening ceremony. Apart from medal in 1996 Atlanta, Mohammad Ali lighting the flame was amazing. Last night was really special to walk into the opening ceremony.
“Yesterday was so beautiful to walk into the opening ceremony. March past this year…they did an excellent job. We didn’t have to do the full lap.”
Paes said that the only time he did not stay at the Olympics Village was in London in 2012.
“Only year I did not stay at the Village was London Olympics. It was one hour and 20 minutes from the Wimbledon stadium. It was tough. Transportation was a trouble there.
“London two things didn’t happen. I did not stay in the Village as it was so far from the stadium and I missed the opening ceremony as it was too far away from where I was staying. I love the opening ceremony,” concluded Paes.