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August 31, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Can you tell us a little about how you played, how the match went.
LEANDER PAES: Today's match was one of the matches that I hate to lose. Hate is a very strong word, but when I get into close matches like that, when it gets closer to the third set or tiebreaks of third sets or fifth sets, that's when I'm at my best. Today I felt that Michael and myself did everything to put ourselves in the position to win, but it was just not meant to be. With all due credit to our opponents, they came up with the goods when the chips were down. On a little lighter note, I need to go to church some more so the net words can fall our way (smiling).
Q. Watching you play with Martina yesterday, there's a chemistry there. You could write a book on doubles. But there seems to be a chemistry between the two of you. Aside from your ability to play and how you complement one another, it seemed to be a good match. How do you feel about your relationship with her as it relates to tennis? Just give us some insight into how you feel about it.
LEANDER PAES: You're very perceptive on seeing the way that we communicate. We communicate with our eyes. First of all, let me start by saying that my talent as a tennis player is no match to what Martina has achieved in her life. I joked around with my friends in the last 24 hours saying, "She's won more Grand Slams than how many years I am old." So there's a lot of respect there for an athlete, for a person who's achieved so much in her life. Having read about her ever since I was a young boy, the way that she's conducted her whole career - both on the field and off of it - makes it a great honor to play with someone like Martina. So coming to last night, it was probably one of the most cherished moments on a tennis court that I've had in my whole career. As the boys know here, Davis Cup, the Olympics, Newport Hall of Fame, those are things that I hold dear to me. But playing that match last night with Martina, to me, seemed like the finals of a Grand Slam or the Bronze Medal match at the Olympics. The energy with which we played, the energy that surrounded us on Grandstand Court yesterday was phenomenal. I'm hesitating a bit to comment on our communication because it's only one match. I don't want to be out of line saying too much. But I am just relishing the opportunity with playing with such a true champion. She is phenomenal.
Q. Do you think that Rennae and Todd played lower than their best?
LEANDER PAES: Not really. Right from the first game, they broke me on serve. Todd is playing with a lot of confidence right now because he won Wimbledon. Rennae is the No. 1 doubles player in the world as well. They're playing with a lot of confidence. I lost to them last year in the finals here, and we had matchpoint. Another net cord (smiling). But I had a bit of revenge to get. Coming out into the match, we started off on the wrong foot. We got down 2-Love early, with Martina to serve now. I must say that that's the one thing that I really enjoyed about Martina, is that regardless of what the score line was, that eye contact, that positive energy, that camaraderie and enthusiasm with which she played was phenomenal. I hope when I'm her age I would just like to be on the tennis court let alone perform at that level. Just it really showed me yesterday as to why she possesses so many Grand Slam trophies and why she's so well regarded and why that makes her probably the best tennis player that ever lived.
Q. How do you get to team up with Martina?
LEANDER PAES: She came straight up to me and walked in front of me and said, "You are playing mixed doubles with me." What do you say to that (laughter)?
Q. She felt you were the best.
LEANDER PAES: I just nodded and here we are (smiling).
Q. McEnroe said on TV last night watching you play that you're one of the quickest he's seen at the net. What do you think of that?
LEANDER PAES: I think Martina's a touch quicker.
Q. Even now?
LEANDER PAES: No, I mean I'm teasing... It's a big compliment for Johnny Mac to give me that. As you all know, his forte was serve and volley. He's been No. 1 in the world in singles and in doubles and the only player to do so. It's a real honor, you know? For me, being out on that court with Martina, with Johnny Mac saying stuff like that, Johnny Mac's always been very supportive to me. I respect him a lot. When you talk of players like Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe, you fit me somewhere in there, it's very high-caliber people you're talking about. It's just an honor to be there amongst them - in a little way. You can't compare me to them, but in a little way, it's special to share that moment.
Q. There is a rumor you and Mahesh might get together in 2003 with a new coach. Is there any truth to that rumor?
LEANDER PAES: What was it again now?
Q. That you and Mahesh will get together.
LEANDER PAES: It's a rumor.
Q. Explain. To these guys it's old news. To us, in the United States, why aren't you playing with him? Together you were the best doubles team in the world. I know whatever the problems were, I really don't know what they are. You talk about them among yourselves. There's no way you can work it out?
LEANDER PAES: It wasn't my choice. We were supposed to play this whole year together. It came as a rude shock where he came up to me, just saying, "We're done." We had lost about three or four first rounds in a row, but we were still the No. 4 team in the world, you know? I'm not going to sit here and say he's wrong and I'm right because I'm human, too. But it's been a tough year. It's been a very tough year to try and find another partner - as you all know, with the way that doubles is taking its meandering around, finding its own path, as well as when you break a partnership up in the end of March, it's almost come to the middle of the year. So every other good doubles player is already set for the year. So I thought that was very selfish. I think that the two boys sitting here already have the history of why it happened. I'm not going to sit here and wash our dirty laundry in public, but it hurts.
Q. Do you think that the fact that you had lost a series of matches had anything to do with it? Do you think it was beyond that? That always plays into it. Do you think that was the motivating factor?
LEANDER PAES: I think like you said, it plays into it. But I know there's a lot more to it. I'm not going to sit here and wash my dirty laundry as to why it happened. I know exactly what happened six weeks down the track. Hindsight's easy, isn't it? But that's the beauty of our sport I think. It takes all different personalties. Being an individual sport, even in doubles, you're two individuals trying to bridge - you know, the sum of two individuals being greater than two. I think it takes all different kinds. As far as I'm concerned, we had a wonderful career together. We were No. 1 in the world. We shared many special moments that I won't ever forget. I respect him for that and thank him for that, but that's about it.
Q. Any chance you'll get back together?
LEANDER PAES: No.
Q. If he came to you, that would be your response, too? Right now, it looks that way. But you don't want to go through it again from your end? If he came to you and said, "Let's reunite, I was wrong"?
LEANDER PAES: Hypothetical situation. I can't answer that now. When it comes up, I'll be able to answer it.
Q. Can you comment about the issue, you made reference to partners. We talked to a lot of players who were playing singles and doubles. Everybody's struggling with this doubles issue - how you get a partner, computer rankings, the complications of singles and doubles. As a player in the system, how do you see all of this playing out? Do people have to specialize in doubles to be able to play doubles significantly? Can you play singles and doubles? What does the tour have to do? What's the answer to this problem?
LEANDER PAES: I'm not sure if I have the answer, but I have my own theory on it. I think that some of the best singles players make great doubles players. I think Pete Sampras could be like a John McEnroe if he actually worked at it and be No. 1 in singles and in doubles. He has the game for it. I've seen Agassi. I've played Agassi in finals of doubles tournaments. I have played Tim Henman, Ivanisevic, a lot of singles players who could be great doubles players. I think the demand on a singles player physically and mentally in terms of the longevity of the year, a year spans out for them, probably about 35 weeks a year in singles. For the top guys, probably about 25, a touch less than 35. But it makes it very hard on them to play best-of-five-set singles matches and come out two hours later to play best-of-three sets double matches. At Wimbledon the doubles is best-of-five, too. That makes it very, very hard. I think the modern tennis player has so much demand on him physically and mentally because of the sheer longevity of the year. I also think that five sets with our climate and our weather changing so much, we're talking on a whole different subject here now, but with it being -- with the weather zapping your energy so much and making it so tough to recover from one five-set match, the two weeks of a Grand Slam becomes very, very long. So I doubt you'll see that many top singles players playing doubles in a Grand Slam. They might play one or two rounds, but I doubt that... I think you'll see a lot of singles boys playing doubles more at tournaments where you have best-of-three sets, indoors, grass, things like that, where physically it's not that demanding to bridge both, you know, singles and doubles. That's as far as the players go. I think as far as the way that the doubles rules and things are changing, I think it's very intriguing. Me, as an athlete, obviously one has to adapt to the way the rules are and make sure that for next year now, because of my current position, make sure for next year now I'm in the Top 35 in the world or else I'm probably not going to have a job, you know? That becomes - again, at 29 years old, I've had my singles career, I've had my Davis Cup triumphs, so on and so forth - I'm in somewhat the twilight of my career. I've got probably about another three or four good years left, you know, if I'm lucky and I stay injury-free. But it's very intriguing, that question, as to where is doubles going to go. I don't believe I have all the answers. I have my own theory behind it.
Q. Top 35 in the world. Is that Top 35 doubles players in the world will automatically get into the Grand Slams next year?
LEANDER PAES: Not so much the Grand Slams but Super 9s. The Grand Slams is a much bigger draw. Hence, even if you're 50 or 60 in the world, maybe even 65, you'll get in. Don't quote me exactly on that number, but I'm giving you a ballpark figure there. The Grand Slams, the doubles draw is bigger, so hence more guys will get in. But in say Toronto or say in Cincinnati or say in Paris, not gonna have many doubles specialists anymore.
Q. How will they make the teams? Say your partner isn't Top 35 and you are, do they pair you up with a good singles player?
LEANDER PAES: Basically your singles ranking is going to be used as a doubles ranking, too. So hence if you're in the Top - that's why I said 35 - if you're in the Top 35 in doubles, you should get in.
Q. With your partner?
LEANDER PAES: As long as he's in the Top 35, too. It becomes intriguing when you got a doubles player playing with someone who's Top 20 in singles. Then what are you going to do?
Q. What do you think about the 10-point tiebreak in the third set that you had last year? Are you going to have that this year, too?
LEANDER PAES: I don't know. You have to ask ATP on that.
Q. What do you think of that?
LEANDER PAES: I didn't enjoy it at all.
Q. Do you practice yoga on a regular basis?
LEANDER PAES: Every day.
Q. For how long?
LEANDER PAES: In the morning when I wake up for about an hour and a half. All my training, my stretching - all my stretching exercises are yoga stretches. In India, we are very, very lucky to have such a wonderful art form and lifestyle, both mentally to enhance my sport, to enhance my own lifestyle. Yoga is a wonderful tool for me. I've used it since I was a young boy. I was very lucky to have a yoga master as a young boy teach me how to do it. Whether it's my breathing techniques to help me gasp more energy when I'm tired on the court after a long rally, or whether it means today being down 5-6, 15-40. What are you going to do then? Are you nervous? Are you scared? Aree you going to come up and serve two aces?
Q. Have you heard of Bikram's yoga instead of Hatha yoga?
LEANDER PAES: Fill me in on that.
Q. It's Bikram Choudhury. He's an Indian master, he's come to LA, he's known as the yoga master to the stars, based in Los Angeles. He has the room heated up to about 110 degrees to simulate Indian conditions. You've never heard of that?
LEANDER PAES: I haven't heard of that. Can we switch positions now and I ask questions?
Q. A player, a male or female player, can play just doubles, not singles, and make a very good living and do very well. Why aren't there more players doing that? Why do they all hop to play singles and try to work in the doubles? I don't mean this literally, but why doesn't an Andy Roddick decide, "I want to be a doubles expert," instead of a singles expert?
LEANDER PAES: That's a good question. Let me answer that in a different way. If I was 18 years old, just coming out of the Juniors, I would solely go after my singles because I know that my singles ranking, if it's good enough, gets me into both. If I was 18 years old and I saw the way that the doubles was meandering with 10-point tiebreaks, with cutting the draw size, with singles, I would be very insecure with being ranked at around 70 in the world. I would know that one day I would have a game and the next day I would be out of a profession. In the fourth week I would have a game, and then the tenth week I would again be out of a profession. So to answer your question, I think that because of the way that the rules are going, hence a lot of players are concentrating on singles.
Q. What you're saying is really the system is built discriminating against the doubles players and favoring the singles players?
LEANDER PAES: I am saying it's a lot more beneficial for an athlete who's 18 or 19 years old to concentrate on their singles and then be able to play doubles. The singles player will still be able to play doubles, but a doubles specialist, as your question is, would never be able to play singles.
Q. Any promising Indian players?
LEANDER PAES: Yes. I'm not sure if you've been following, there's a Futures going on in India right now. Suni (phonetic), one of the boys that I've been supporting since I was a young kid, he just won the first leg, he won the finals last Sunday, and yesterday he won the semifinals. He's in the finals again. So for those of you who don't know about Suni (phonetic), he's a young little Indian boy from a village up north called Kapurtalla. It's a small little village outside Chandagar. One of my first sponsors called Punjae Wireless, they had a little tennis academy in the main city called Chandagar. They had my then Davis Cup captain, Ramesh Krishnan, myself and my father choose some young talent. This was my way of giving back to the sport in India especially, and around the world. We picked this young kid up as a 9-year-old. He had never held a tennis racquet in his hand until then. Between my dad being a doctor and an athlete and my own tennis brain, we put out certain perimeters and that's how we picked this young kid. Just to fill you in a little bit, eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination, background, height, genes. I've been lucky; I'm a product of two very successful athletes, both my parents. Hence they gave me my physical attributes. You can't make up for those as much. I shouldn't say you can't make up, but it's more of a head start. So blah, blah, blah... We pick this kid up as a 9-year-old, brought him to Chandagar, clothed him, put him into the tennis academy there and also sent him to school. Seven years later as a 16-year-old he won a men's nationals. He had only played seven years of tennis and won a men's nationals. It helps that he's a left-handed player. It helps that he comes from a humble family; his father is a bike mechanic. Hence, the desire, as we see a lot in the eastern bloc countries now where you have so many tennis players come out, the desire for this young child to see this as a vehicle and opportunity to him. He worked very, very hard. I'm so proud of him that not only did he win the men's nationals that year, but he went on to play Junior US Open and Wimbledon. In fact, at those events he stays with me when we travel to Grand Slams. Now he's just been selected for the Davis Cup team three days ago. So he's already a success story, considering where he's come from. But the sky's the limit now.
Q. How old is he?
LEANDER PAES: Suni is now 19 years old.
Q. He'll be playing as a practice partner on India's Davis Cup team?
LEANDER PAES: No, he's on the top four.
LEANDER PAES: I'm not giving away any secrets (laughing).
Q. When do you play?
LEANDER PAES: We play Australia ABOUT two weeks after the US Open.
LEANDER PAES: In Australia. The last few years we've won all the Asian Zones, won all our matches there. When we get to the playoffs we either run up against America or Australia or... So it gets tougher.
Q. Will it be on grass?
LEANDER PAES: I wish. They play us on slow hard court.
Q. When you say a lefty, how come - that's a story I'm doing now - why aren't there any great lefty players anymore?
LEANDER PAES: Your Wimbledon Champion last year was a left-handed player. Your No. 1 player in the world, Marcelo Rios, at one time, was left-handed. Lefties have a big advantage. Just to share one little theory with you, their tendon, here (indicating his left wrist), in their wrist, is a fraction of a millimeter longer than of a righty's. Any one of us, our left hand will be a fraction of a millimeter longer than a righty. Simple thing: Try and push your hands back there, try and push your hands back there (bending his hand back), and you'll see. Variety. Gives you a lot more variety. Comes from being a doctor's son, I guess (laughter).
Q. If you weren't a tennis player, what would you be?
LEANDER PAES: Not a doctor. Too much hard work (laughing).
Q. What kind of music do you listen to? Maybe the last CD you bought?
LEANDER PAES: Very, very vast variety.
Q. What's in your CD player now?
LEANDER PAES: Right now I have got a group called -- let me tell you their background. I'm from Goa, a little island. There's a singer called Remo. You guys know Remo. He's a very talented musician. He just lost his band a year and a half - not so much - about a year ago in a car crash. He was very lucky to survive. I'm not going to get into that. He just formed a new band. This brand new band is trying to work its way up to what the old band was. Hence, he sent me some of his music. I'm just listening to it.
Q. Goa is supposed to be a very interesting place.
LEANDER PAES: Yes, it is. It's beautiful.
Q. We have friends from England who are going there soon.
LEANDER PAES: It's beautiful.
Q. What is it like?
LEANDER PAES: Goa's a very cosmopolitan society. It's of Portuguese heritage, Vasco da Gama, who was the famous world traveler and trader, he left Portugal to actually find America. Instead of taking a left, he took a right - or vice versa - and landed in Goa. Hence, the Portuguese descent and traditions and values and things like that. Goa's basically an island, so a lot of tourism, beach resorts. Way off tennis right now (smiling).
Q. It is interesting, though.
LEANDER PAES: Yeah.
Q. This young player who's going to play on the Davis Cup team, he came from a pretty low, impoverished area?
LEANDER PAES: He came from a humble background. I don't think he would have had as much opportunity as he's had with what Punjae Wireless, The Chandagar Tennis Association, nor Naresh Kumar (phonetic spelling), you know, all the different people who have actually played a part in his life. He's very, very fortunate to have those people be his so-called Godfathers. In India, being the country that we have and the financial situation that we have, you really need Godfathers. You need your family's entire support - be it emotional, be it financial, be it any sort of way. I was lucky to have a doctor as my father. You know, basically it's very hard to build champions out of countries like India. That's why we produce one or two really good players every 10 or 15 years, unlike Sweden and unlike Spain or America or Australia, where there's a lot more opportunity. We have a very long tennis culture; it's been there for many, many generations. But the opportunity is not that great. Right now, we've got one tour event. We've got two challengers and two satellites.
Q. What is the tour event?
LEANDER PAES: It's called the TATA Open in Chennai. It's the first week of the year. So the opportunity is what becomes important to the young kids. That's where we fall in. That's where Ramesh Krishnan, who retired a few years ago, or me or the next person, we've always got to give back. Hence for me it's very important to give back.
Q. (Inaudible) Is it always people who come from a certain amount of wealth?
LEANDER PAES: I think that 20 years ago you needed a lot more affluence to play tennis. Firstly, just to be a member of a club you had to come from an affluent family, to get the opportunity to go to a tennis school. There are a lot more public courts there. There are a lot more opportunities for a young child who's not a member of a club or whose parents are not that affluent to go on to public courts, be it the Association courts in Delhi, be it in Calcutta, whatever. There are a lot more tennis courts. I think that's one of the reasons I'm very happy to a certain extent to change that psychology in India, to show Indians that we can be world leaders. I think that's something that I'm really happy for. But now that we've got a lot of courts, you got to take the coaching, you got to take the diet, the physical training all to another level. Simple, how is Suni, who's 5'8", thinner than I am, slimmer than I am rather, take on an Andy Roddick, who's probably about only two years older than him? How old is Andy now, about 22, 23.
Q. Twenty yesterday.
LEANDER PAES: Twenty yesterday, look at that. He's one year older than him.
Q. So this young guy you're talking about is only 5'8"?
LEANDER PAES: Yeah. I mean, to answer your question really, the opportunity, the lifestyle, it's quite different.
Q. Is the Indian Tennis Federation pretty strong? Is there not a lot of money?
LEANDER PAES: It's strong. They support some of the players and things like that. I think it's just the whole financial situation. It's getting better. It's getting a lot better. I mean, from 15 years ago, wow, we've come a long way. So we hope that in the next 10 years, it can be good.
Q. What's this young man's ranking in the world?
LEANDER PAES: I've got to check it tomorrow, rather on Monday. But he was ranked at -- he started playing the seniors January 1st this year. He had no ranking. Then he went to -- after last week, he went to somewhere around 820, somewhere close to there. Now with another win he jumps up some more, which I hope he wins tomorrow because it will do a lot for his confidence and for Indian tennis.
Q. One final question. You touched on the size issue. If you watched today, closely - I don't know if you saw the match between Blake and Hewitt - everyone says playing on hardcourts, you have to be big, strong, power the ball, look for the quick point, see the opening, put it away, power. Now we have all these people in the weight room getting bigger, stronger, muscling up, who knows what else they're doing. However, those two guys proved that someone quick and agile at the baseline can play on this surface and win. They played a very entertaining match. You're that kind of a player in a sense that you're quick and agile and you're not a size guy. You play well in doubles. People say, "Well, someone your size, you have to have a big guy to play with you or you can't win." How do you feel about that? Do you think that young, quick, agile players, people like yourself, can survive on this tour, or do you have to be big and strong and powerful?
LEANDER PAES: Well, I think that that's one of the single most factors -- single most good things why Lleyton Hewitt's No. 1 in the world. He shows that the smaller build, more wiry build, athlete can still be a very good athlete. I think in a sport like tennis it makes it a lot easier to be 6'2 with a big serve and a lot of power. The game has evolved so much, and the surface and the conditions, the ball and the game and equipment has evolved so far that the stronger you are, the bigger you are, is more beneficial. Because, as you can see, the short pace of the ball is being hit so hard, it's being -- it's coming -- by the time you finish your backswing, it's back at you again. Basically, you can dominate the game with your serve. But as I said again - I will say it again - the single most good thing about Lleyton Hewitt being No. 1 in the world, it proves to the rest of the athletes who are 6' and shorter or slimmer that with whatever God-given talent and size and ability or inability that you have, you got to be able to maximize that. Just because you have size does not mean that you have the mind that it takes to be No. 1 in the world, the will power, the - I wouldn't call it sacrifice - but the discipline that it takes to be No. 1 in the world. Lleyton, I think, is fantastic for the game. He is a true champion. He travelled with Bob Carmichael and myself, we all travelled together in 1998, in the summer of 1998 for about three months together. That was my best year that I had in singles. I ended up winning Newport, the Hall of Fame tournament, in singles. Couple weeks later I played in New Haven where I qualified. Then I ended up beating Bruguera, Rosset, Pete Sampras, and I lost to Ivanisevic in the quarters. So I am very pleased to see that all the hard work he's put in for all those years is paying off. He surrounded himself with true quality people, and that's what made him a true champion.
Q. And a tough test in that Davis Cup tie coming up. Can you talk about that.
LEANDER PAES: Thanks for reminding me (smiling).
Q. Sorry about that.
LEANDER PAES: Yes.
Q. I mean, how do you see your chances?
LEANDER PAES: Every Davis Cup is my stage to perform on. So every tie that I go out to, whether I have, you know, X player or y player or Z player with me, it's about me performing at my best. I just look after myself and try to motivate the team accordingly.
Q. Philippoussis is not going to be there now. That's not going to change one thing coming from India's side.
LEANDER PAES: Well, Wayne Arthurs popped about 17 aces past me today, so... Philippoussis, Arthurs (laughing).
Q. Not a big difference?
LEANDER PAES: Exactly.
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