Leander Paes after Rio exit : “Leander is a soft target, so a lot of guys wanna take shots at me”

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Leander Paes after Rio exit : “Leander is a soft target, so a lot of guys wanna take shots at me”

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Amlan Majumdar

08/07/2016

After his surprise first-round exit in the men's doubles event at the Rio Olympics, Leander Paes has expressed his desire to return in the 2020 Games, at the age of 47. The Indian tennis ace has also labelled himself as being a 'soft target', which has allowed people to “take potshots” at him.

Leander Paes was in the eye of a storm in the build-up to the Rio Games. Initially, Rohan Bopanna had preferred Saketh Myneni as his partner ahead of the announcement, but some last-minute manoeuvring by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) saw Leander announced as the partner.

In the build-up the Games, media reports had alleged that the veteran tennis star refused to share the room with Rohan Bopanna in the games village. This snowballed into a big debacle when Paes reached the Olympics Village on Thursday and his late arrival had caused a lot of rumours about his partnership with doubles partner Rohan Bopanna.

On Saturday, the debacle reached a disastrous conclusion when Leander Paes and his partner Rohan Bopanna were knocked out by the Polish pair of Marcin Matkowski & Lukasz Kubot 4-6, 6-7 (6-7) in the first round of the men's doubles event.

When asked whether the loss has taken the sheen off Olympic legacy, as the doubles medal eluded him once again, he 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," reported PTI.

Speaking about the criticism he had faced from the Indian media in the build-up, Paes said, "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."

Leander has, however, refused to bow out on such he sour note. He is targeting to feature in his 8th Olympics at Tokyo on 2020, when he will be 47 years old.

"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 percent. 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, reported PTI.

Looking back at his Olympic journey so far, Paes regretted on missing out on a doubles medal so far. He said, "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.

"Beauty of the past is you cannot change it, you can only learn from it. 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."

When asked to pick three of his most memorable Olympic memories, 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."

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