NEW DELHI (Reuters) - London’s Olympics offer the seemingly ageless Leander Paes the chance to outdo his father in the medals stakes and to crown his doubles tennis career.
Paes’s eyes still light up at the mention of the singles bronze he won at the Atlanta Games in 1996, ending India’s 44-year wait for an individual Olympic medal.
The success put him on a par with his father, Vece Paes, who was part of India’s bronze medal-winning 1972 Olympic hockey team.
“Oh yes, it’s a 1-1 draw and I better win another,” said Paes, who will turn 39 in June.
Fresh from completing his doubles career slam with the Australian Open victory last month, Paes is intrigued by his conspicuous lack of Olympic success as a doubles player.
“I came close to winning three times. One with Ramesh Krishnan in my first Olympics in 1992 and twice with Mahesh (Bhupathi) in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008),” he told Reuters at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association Stadium.
In Beijing, Paes and Bhupathi were eliminated in the quarter-finals by the eventual Swiss winners Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.
“But the singles bronze in Atlanta was not a surprise. I really, really concentrated on it. I was ready for it.”
London’s July 27-August 12 Games could finally produce a doubles medal, said Paes, who has won seven men’s doubles and six mixed doubles grand slam titles.
“I have not thought of any farewell yet. I don’t think I‘m done with it. I‘m not sure it’s my last chance. For me, it’s probably one of the best chances to win an Olympic medal in doubles,” he said.
”Olympics are always special and the Atlanta medal is the best thing I have done. Of course, the career slam is pretty up there but the singles medal is by far the best thing.
”For me, it’s very special when I play for the country. And this is my sixth Olympics, a feat that not many Asian athletes have achieved.
“I don’t know who is going to be my partner but all are playing at the top level and I really hope that I get the best partner to win a medal. That’s what I‘m focused on.”
Asked what kept him going, Paes said “It’s called passion, staying happy.”
Editing by Clare Fallon