India’s Davis Cup legend Leander Paes on Wednesday made it clear that he opted to play World Team Tennis during India’s last tie against New Zealand in order to give youngsters a chance to prepare for the bigger battles ahead of them.
“Davis Cup is something very important to me. It’s not like I am not prepared to put myself forward for the team. It is a conscious decision that I made. Look in the last few years, I have let the youngsters play in Asian zone. I am 42, I belive that young one should come and take me out of my job,” Paes told mediapersons after his first practice session ahead of the World Group Play-Off against Czech Republic.
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Paes, who won the US Open mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis last week, joined the team on Wednesday.
The veteran star was asked the question in reference to non-playing captain Anand Amritraj’s answer that he felt bad for Saketh Myneni, who had played in the last tie against New Zealand at Christchurch.
“If I keep playing all the ties that we should win comfortably, then I can play for the next four to five years. It’s about nurturing the youngsters. As they get better and better, improve their ranking, out me out of my job,” the 42-year-old stars, winner of 19 Grand Slam titles said.
About the tie against Czech Republic, Paes feels that the side with control of first set might go on to win their matches.
After hitting with partner Rohan Bopanna for about an hour in the evening, he concluded that the court is quite slow, the ball is jumping so players should be ready for long rallies.
“Physicial fitness will be a huge factor in this tie. It’s eight in the evening it is so humid, if you come out at noon or in afive set match in Delhi heat, the physicality of this tie will be phenomenal. It’s not best of three. The court is playing really slow, the ball is jumping,” Paes said.
Paes, who has vast experience of playing and winning tough matches, also had a word of advise for the Indian players.
“The obvious part is the fluid, the rest, getting then body ready but also look after diet, stretching and recovering. What is going to be tested that rallies are going to be long and whoever wins the first set, controls the first set, will do well,” he said.
Leander said even if at this age, he was able to win the Grand Slams it was due to discipline. He won three mixed doubles titles, except French Open which he did not play.
“2015 has been a hard year (due to turmoil in personal life) but tennis was good. Wining three Grand Slams in a year is phenomenal, specially doing it after being on road for 25 years. Is is really special. It is about the sense of discipline and having a great team behind me,” Paes, who is battling a court case for the custody of his daughter, said.
Paes said Somdev and Yuki were capable of winning against their Czech opponents. He said he followed the New Zealand tie and they did a great job there but reminded that conditions will be too tough in Delhi.
“In sport, margins are very small. It could be just one shot, not one rally or a set. The conditions are going to be benefiting the team which is better mentally and physically,” he said.
Talking about Radek Stepanek with whom he has won two Grand Slams, Paes said the doubles match against him will be very tough.
“Radek is one of my dear friends. He is an athlete I have tremendous respect for. To welcome Radek to India is special to me. Quality of tennis on Saturday is going to be very high. He will be coming out in full force to get scalp of me in my own country. I am going to be ready for that.”
Paes said he was eyeing not only men’s doubles but also mixed doubles at the Rio Olympic Games but more importantly he wants to stay fit and prepare well.
“Preparations for Rio are going well, I won three Grand Slams on the trot, a bit short of winning all four and that would have been unbelievable year. Playing with Rohan in September showed we can produce results. Rio will be on hard courts, a surface both of us are very comfortable. I have already won one (Olympic medal) in singles and if I can add one more to that it would be fantastic,” said Paes.
“More important is to get to Rio in 100 percent 0conditions. Everybody is talking about who will be playing but for me preparation is important,” he said.