Bronze medal at the singles event of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996
Bronze medal in men’s doubles at the Commonwealth Games of 2010, held in Delhi
Bagged gold and bronze medals at the Asian Games of 1994, 2002 and 2006 in singles, doubles, and team events
Bestowed with the Arjuna Award in 1990 by the Government of India for his sincere efforts in uplifting the stature of tennis in the nation
Received the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2001 and India's third highest civilian award Padma Bhushan in January 2014 by the Government of India
Received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award by the Government of India in 1996
Age is just a number. When I started, I never worried about how long I was going to play. I had very specific goals, and that's what I really chased.
Regarded as the most successful player in the history of Davis Cup with 43 doubles wins and India’s top-notch tennis player Leander Paes is the one who propelled the rage of tennis in India. He has 8 career Grand Slams in doubles and ten career Grand Slams in mixed doubles under his belt. It is said that Paes' sports career was quite evident as both his parents have been prominent sportspersons belonging to field hockey and basketball but Paes selected his own way to pursue a career in sports by choosing tennis, which meant he had to learn the game just like others. However, the support of parents worked as a catalyst in his performance that led him scripting history.
Leander was born in Kolkata to Vece Paes, member of the bronze medal-winning Indian field hockey team, and Jennifer Paes, captain of the Indian basketball team in the 1980 Asian Basketball Championship. Being much fascinated with tennis Leander started playing the game when he was five. He learned the techniques of the sport in Madras (now Chennai) at the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy under the guidance of Dave O'Meara after getting basic skills at the Dalhousie Institute, Calcutta. He rose to fame after winning the Wimbledon junior title in 1990 at the age of 17, spotting the first rank in the world junior ranking and eventually got selected in the Indian Davis Cup team. His performance earned sincere appreciation from the Government who bestowed him with the Arjuna Award. The following year, he turned professional, and that was when he faced a hard phase of his career as his initial years as a pro were not so good. In 1992, he teamed up with Ramesh Krishnan and reached the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles in the Barcelona Olympics and clinched his first singles title by winning the Guangzhou ATP Challenger event of the same year.
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At the Asian Games of 1994, Leander again proved his knack by earning a bronze medal in the singles event and then dominating the doubles along with Gaurav Natekar and the team event as well along with Zeeshan Ali, Gaurav Natekar and Asif Ismail. He earned a bronze medal for the nation with her sturdy performance at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, becoming India’s first athlete to bag an Olympic medal since 1952.
I love taking challenges, as my name Leander means ‘lion’s heart.
Leander’s success streaks took a new form when he teamed up with countryman Mahesh Bhupathi. The duo started bagging medals at various international stages, especially in the Davis Cup matches. In 1997 and 1998, they bagged six ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals)doubles titles. The following year proved to be fruitful as they qualified the doubles finals of all four Grand Slam tournaments in which they won the French and Wimbledon whereas lost the U.S. Open and Australian Open, top-notching the ATP doubles ranking. Leander was chosen to represent the country by bearing the national flag at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. In 2001, they again bagged the title of French Open and were honoured with the prestigious civilian award “Padma Shri” by the Government of India.
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In 2003, Paes won the Grand Slam Championship, held in Wimbledon in mixed doubles, dominated the U.S. Opendoubles with Martin Damm in 2006 which he again won in 2009 along with the FrenchOpen title, partnering with Lukáš Dlouhý. Leander’s journey in the Davis Cup tournaments has been regarded as the most amazing phase of his tennis career when he delivered numerous jaw-dropping shots, winning the heart of throng of fans and bagging medals for the nation. Paes started his Davis Cup career in 1990 at the age of 16, partnering with Zeeshan Ali and earned his place in the top-notch players of Davis Cup with an overall record of 89-32 (according to the statistical analysis of July 2015).
I wanted to emulate my parents – Mum captained India in basketball, and Dad won a bronze in hockey in 1972 Olympics. My focus has always been to achieve excellence whether in the field of tennis, in the corporate field, in the art of acting or in motivating youngsters.
Throughout his career span, Leander is regarded as one of the best volleyers and dropshotters of India. He preferred to slice while returning serve or rallying from the backhand. Paes has not only reflected the Indian knack in tennis but also delivered performance on the court that will be considered as the best lessons for the future of tennis stars. In a span from 1992 to 2016, Paes has given seven consecutive appearances at the Olympics, being the first Indian and only tennis player to do so.
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To encourage sports in the nation, he joined the Board of Directors of Olympic Gold Quest in 2010, a foundation co-founded by Billiards Champion Geet Sethi and Badminton ace Prakash Padukone. With his supersonic performances over past years, Paes has proved to the world that there is nothing impossible for a person who has a strong will to achieve success no matter how harsh the life may get. The nation is really proud of its Tennis Ace-Leander Paes and hopes that his success streaks will always embellish its victory stats at the international stage.