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November 19, 2005

Leander Paes

Nenad Zimonjic


THE MODERATOR: Questions in English and Chinese, please.

Q. Can you talk about what it means in your last tournament with Leander to be in the final.

NENAD ZIMONJIC: Definitely this is the best way of ending the season. We had really tough year if you look at it from the beginning. We had couple of injuries, both ways. First he got injured right before the Australian Open. In Sydney he twisted his ankle, so we missed the opportunity to play there. Then later on I pulled my muscle, also the quad, so we had basically two months out. Then right after French Open, after we had really good clay court season, he had problem with the shoulder where he came straight to Wimbledon without really practicing. There we made quarterfinals, which I thought it was a miracle with the things that were going on. Right after that, right after Wimbledon, when I was practicing, I twisted my ankle, fell down, broke my left wrist, so I was out for four - actually five weeks. The same time he was recovering from the shoulder injury. So we had really tough times. Then having a rough, rough summer season in the States where we lost so many close matches. Then it came the good indoor season where we made finals in Stockholm and finals in Madrid, which helped us qualify here. To come here and to play against the best teams in the world right from the first match, it's really a lot of pressure. It's I would say the toughest tournament. I would look at it as a world championships, you know, because throughout the year you fight to make it here. It's kind of like qualification is the whole year. That shows who is really the best, the best player or the best teams. Then to come up and to play some teams, let's say we started with Knowles-Nestor which we both times lost this year that we played; we lost three sets. This time we beat them in the first match. Then we played Arthurs-Hanley. We had one-all before coming here. They played a great match. Again, we end up winning this. In these two matches, it was that Leander carried us, our team. Like especially first two matches, I was struggling to find the rhythm and to get going, but he was playing awesome tennis. Slowly and throughout the second match and then the third and today, I felt like I was raising my level and improving, while he was still playing good, good tennis. We played really together and really good when it counted the most. Today, I thought we played really good. There were some unbelievable points. But, again, they came when it counted the most - at some breakpoints, some reflexes. It looked pretty good, if you look at the score, pretty easy, but it was a tough match. Wayne and Kevin, they played awesome tennis. This week they were the only team to win all three matches, so they were coming to this match with a lot of confidence. It was difficult for us even though we lost previous two meetings that we had against them, we lost at Wimbledon 7-5, 7-6, 7-6, and then we lost 7-6 in the third in Cincinnati, both quarterfinals. In both matches we had chances. Today we used those chances, and it looked pretty easy, but still, like I said, it was tough match.

LEANDER PAES: Tell us what you really think (laughing).

Q. A question to both of you, how did it all start in the very beginning? I mean, he's from India, you're from Serbia. It sounds like an unlikely team out there. So how did it start in the very beginning, your team?

NENAD ZIMONJIC: I don't know if it was really -- the only time we played first prior to this year, I was trying to convince him so hard. It was difficult. But finally he committed, and we played Delray Beach, which we won. It was back in 2002, I believe. And then this, at the end of -- this time last year, I got a phone call from Leander and I was really surprised, you know, that somebody of his level and the player that he is and how many titles he had, to finally ask me to play was a big honor for me. So from the very beginning of the year, I was trying to play as better as possible, you know, to try to keep us as a team, you know, to play together. Unfortunately, like I told you before, we had really tough, tough times with injuries throughout the year. The good thing about it is that when it counts the most, now at the end, we are playing the best tennis - and the best tennis as a team, not as individuals. Because throughout the year, sometimes he's gonna play really good, sometimes I'm gonna play good. But as a team, I definitely think we are playing the best now. It would be nice to end the season by winning this title. Even if we don't, we still had a really great year and it was a great time being on the court and just being part of this. Because whenever he's playing, it's very entertaining, you know. You can see some shots and some reflexes that you never gonna see when somebody else is playing. So it was a real pleasure, you know, playing throughout the year. And I have to say that I also learned a lot, you know, playing with an experienced player like Leander is. He helped my game a lot, too.

Q. Before coming here you were together, you said you had a lot of problems during the year. Did you believe that you would reach the finals here?

LEANDER PAES: Most definitely. I believed since December 2004, since I actually sat back and I thought of Zimonjic as a partner, I thought that Nenad is one of the most talented athletes out there on the circuit, be it singles or doubles. Andre Agassi said it when he played Nenad in singles I think it was two years ago.


LEANDER PAES: Last year. Nenad played amazingly well against him. One of the biggest strengths that Nenad has is his talent, his body, and his hard work. He is very dedicated to the game of tennis. He does everything that he can to get there. We're so similar as individuals, sometimes we do too much. Sometimes we feel like we have to be perfect. And as the years went on, that's something that we both learnt of each other, that we're so similar together that it's almost like playing with yourself. We have to kind of relax a bit, not try and be perfect all the time, just play our game, play our style, and have fun out there. Today when we played, it was incredible how many times that Nenad actually just told me, "Just have fun." "Just be you and have fun. Don't worry about anything else." And the game came so naturally. I mentioned to Nenad in November 2004 that we have the game to actually win a Grand Slam. This event here is as big, if not bigger, than a Grand Slam. Maybe this is our event to do really well in and then win. We've played really well so far coming into this tournament. I must tip my hat today to Nenad because he played superb tennis today. Literally, as I said on the court, it was the best tennis I've seen him play all year. There's no reason why he can't continue playing like this for the rest of his career. He is one of the most talented people. It's about just knowing what to do at the right times. Today he helped me a lot on my serve, especially when we broke their serve. Very next game I went down 15-40, and he came out with some unbelievable volleys. Something that kind of almost maybe caught him by surprise. It just shows the caliber of athlete that he is. So to answer your question, most definitely I think that our style of playing, if we can just go out there and have fun and enjoy ourselves and keep things simple, just be ourselves, our team is good enough to win any Grand Slam.

Q. Leander, you're the only Asian among the 25 players who have played at this Tennis Masters Cup. Do you feel a little proprietorial at all? It's not your country, but it's certainly your region of the world.

LEANDER PAES: Well, I'm defending my own home, I guess. It's not only an honor to represent India, but also an honor to represent all of Asia. It's something that I've been doing for almost two decades now, being the No. 1 singles player before, and now the No. 1 doubles player in Asia. It's a great honor to represent the region. Especially the fact that we're coming here to basically my region to play. I've played so many years in Asia that I'm very accustomed to it; I'm very accustomed to the surface, I'm very accustomed to the food, I'm very accustomed to the people. So it's one of the reasons that I've done really well this week, is because I feel like I'm almost at home. So I am comfortable, and I must say that kudos to the tournament director, kudos to the tournament officials for running such a great event here. The Chinese not only tennis fraternity, but sporting fraternity is really growing, as all of China is. And with the Olympics coming up in 2008, the facilities that they've got here in Shanghai as well as Beijing, the way they look after us, the hospitality: magic (smiling).

Q. You've also profited from tremendous support from the crowd here. They've adopted you almost as if you're the home player.

LEANDER PAES: Actually, not sure if either of us look Chinese, but adoption would be stretching it a bit (laughing).

End of FastScripts….

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