Leander Adrian Paes is a legend in his own right. Racking up some staggering numbers in his 25-year career, the Indian tennis star has carved a niche for himself amongst the all-time greats.
Today’s All India Tennis Association’s (AITA) announcement saying Paes will partner Rohan Bopanna at Rio ensures he will enter a seventh straight Olympics—a feat no one has achieved in India, and very few across the world.
In a time when winning a Grand Slam title gets increasingly tougher, Paes has won two Career Grand Slams – men’s and mixed doubles. Last week, the 42-year old added an 18th Grand Slam title by winning the French Open, and to a nation which has barely had superstars to cheer for, Paes has been a constant hero. He has kept the Indian flag flying even on the biggest of stages- the Majors, Olympics, Davis Cup.
He brings an infectious energy to the court. Making up for any flaws in his game with his youthful enthusiasm, Paes is a partner many would wish to have. He has paired with players older and younger than him, yet, very few have been able to match his passion on the court. As a result he has many records to his name, along with the trophies. Here is a look at the five of the most unique ones records Paes holds currently.
Grand Slams Galore!
With 10 titles in his kitty after his recent Rolland Garros win, Leander Paes has the most Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. He shares this record with former partner Martina Navratilova, with whom he had won two titles (2003 Australian and Wimbledon). He even has more titles than arguably the greatest doubles players of all-time, Mark Woodridge and Todd Woodbridge. With his recent form and apparent lack of fatigue, he might as well set an unbeatable record.
Leander Paes has competed in six consecutive Olympic Games since 1992, and was also the flag bearer in Sydney 2000 for his nation. This is an unmatched feat for a tennis player and for an Indian. This is a huge achievement considering the number of athletes who barely make it to an Olympics, let alone multiple ones. In his second appearance at the Games-in 1996, Paes got India its first individual medal since K.D.Jadhav’s bronze in 1952. With the veteran managing to make the cut for Rio, he will join an elite group of athletes who have played in seven or more.
Davis Cup journey
The right-hander’s partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi, famously dubbed as the “Indian Express”, is the most successful Indian partnership. The duo won four Grand Slam titles together, but a unique record they created was in the Davis Cup. “Lee-Hesh” enjoyed a 23 match winning streak in doubles, a record in the competition. Though the duo have fallen out and do not play together anymore, it is unlikely that any pairing will be able to break this one.
Age no bar
In 2013, Leander Paes teamed up with Radek Stepanek to win the US Open men’s doubles title. Nothing special for a man with 18 such titles. Yet, this was a historic moment as Paes became the oldest man (40-years-old at that time) to win a Major title. The man he surpassed, Ken Rosewall, did it at 37. With his mixed doubles title win with Martina Hingis last week at the French Open, he also became the oldest male to achieve a Career Grand Slam.
Of Century partnerships
When the Khel Ratna awardee teamed up with Marcel Granollers for the Nottingham grass court tournament, he had scored a century. Of doubles partners. He joined 46 others in a elite club, and became the first from the nation to do so. But what sets Paes apart from everyone else in that group is that he is the only one to have amassed more than 50 titles and 700 match victories. A humongous achievement in itself, to have done it while adjusting so quickly to new partners is a remarkable feat. A key element to success in doubles tennis is chemistry and understanding, but Leander Paes seems to have aced it. He has partnered players like Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi, from traditional rivals Pakistan, to high profile players like Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal.
Paes has also had 23 Grand Slam mixed doubles partners.