A very special Davis Cup tie: Leander

September 14th, 2010 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Davis Cup Chennai, Sep 14 (IANS) Some 21 years after making his Davis Cup debut, there is no respite for tennis player Leander Paes from pressure and expectations. Yet, he seems to be at ease with the situation as he prepares for a very “special” Davis Cup tie here this weekend against Brazil.

“For sure, this tie is something special for me. I still remember my first match in Davis Cup against Japan in Jaipur. It was 18-16 in the fifth set and we won the tie,” he said referring to the five-set doubles match that he won along with Zeeshan Ali as India wrapped up the tie 4-1 in 1990.

When reminded of this being his 21st season in international tennis, Paes paused a beat before recalling some of his greatest moments in Davis Cup.

“There are so many of those, but I particularly remember my win against (Goran) Ivanisevic (1995, vs Croatia in Delhi), Frejus of course (vs France in 1992) and there was what I feel was the cleanest tie I have ever played, against Jan Siemerink (vs Netherlands in 1996) when I won all my three sets on tie-break,” he said.

Now 37, Paes said he needed to put in extra effort to prepare for a Davis Cup tie, and admitted that representing the country was the biggest high he could ever experience.

“As a kid, I always wanted to be an Olympian and play for my country. I am happy that I was able to achieve that,” said Paes, whose father Vece, was a hockey bronze medallist at the 1972 Olympics.

Paes emulated the feat at the 1996 Olympics by claiming the singles bronze.

“I beat one of my closest friends, Fernando Meligeni of Brazil to win the bronze medal at Atlanta (Olympics),” he recalled.

As fate would have it, Paes will be up against Brazil, a country he confessed was close to his heart having spent a lot of time in that football-crazy country.

“Brazilians are very nice people and I had the honour of playing a match in front of Pele, but these players here are tough and strong,” said Paes, switching to this weekend’s Davis Cup tie.

Looking ahead to the tie, Paes downplayed factors such as the court surface and weather conditions or, for that matter, both Brazilian singles players, Thomaz Bellucci and Ricard Mello, being left-handers.

“On the tour, we play on different surfaces and players, day in and day out. I don’t think it really matters, because at the end of the day, you got to beat them to win the tie.

“As for the hard court, it is very even because on the tour, you either play on clay or on hard court. So, we are all used to it,” he pointed out.

On his doubles partner Saturday, Paes said it was up to the non-playing captain Shiv Prakash Mishra to take a call since the team had plenty of options.

With Mahesh Bhupathi still to arrive in the city, Paes partnered Rohan Bopanna in a hit-about on the centre court, but reiterated that it was up to Mishra to decide on the combination.

“It is good to have options and it is going to be tough on the captain to decide. I have full confidence in SP uncle whom I have known for many years. He has been our lucky captain and so, it is up to him,” said Paes.

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