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September 8, 1999
Flushing Meadows, New York
USTA: Questions for Leander.
Q. How does it feel now?
LEANDER PAES: Well, it's a fantastic feeling, being in the finals of yet another Grand
Slam. Up till January of this year, we lost in quite a few semifinals. It was the next
step that our doubles had to take, was bridging that gap from semifinals to finals. This
year reaching four finals, having won two of them, there's one thing that we are looking
at, is that those two games in January in the Australian Open were very, very important.
We're delighted to be in another final. We have a good match coming up day after tomorrow.
It's amazing how, you know, it could have been a humongous occasion, sitting right here in
that final in Australia were different.
Q. Can you call it on the historical aspect of this being the first team to reach all
four Grand Slam finals in a single calendar year in The Open era?
LEANDER PAES: That stat is something that I knew before I started playing with Mahesh.
It was something that I wanted to set as a record. Being Indians, I wanted to set that
trademark, doing it with another fellow Indian, getting to four Grand Slam finals, even
maybe winning a Grand Slam. At that point in time when I thought about it, I thought it
was a little farfetched goal. It's been a fantastic year. It's in the history books to an
extent that not only are we in four Grand Slam finals, but in a way, we've proven to India
that we can produce champions, even though it's only in doubles. We've proven to India
that we can achieve levels and heights of this magnitude if you're willing to work hard
enough and put things together.
Q. How do you explain two singles players with rankings greater than 100 doing so well
LEANDER PAES: There are quite a few things that go into our doubles. But if there was
one single-most quality I'd have to pull out, is that when we play together, we play with
heart. We motivate each other. We keep each other in line. Even though this last year has
not been a great year off the court, we've been thoroughly professional about it. We pull
together when it comes to crunch time. We step up to another level. It's a special feeling
that we have when we play together. This year we both played with different partners.
We've talked about those situations. You know, I've had a bit of success with other
partners. But when one plays with Mahesh, it's a special feeling.
Q. Could you expand on the misunderstandings off the court or would you rather not?
LEANDER PAES: Well, I mean, I don't mind getting into it to a certain extent. I just
feel that being in a position of being No. 1, where we are now, there's a lot of things
that come along with that. One of the things that does come along with that is that people
want to be on that bandwagon. Hence, you find Mahesh has his group and I have my group. In
that, people want our individual best interests at mind. They want his interest, his
group; my group wants mine. Subtly there's a communication barrier. That's something that
we have to keep very solidly intact, because that's the main reason Mahesh and myself do
well together, is that we communicate with each other, not necessarily with words, but
with body language, with eye contact, with understanding of each other. There have been
certain times this year that that communication was not right. That has been caused by
outside influence. That's something that we're working on now. It's something that I hope
gets better because that's what's going to look after the longevity of our career in
doubles, as far as playing together goes.
Q. You have different coaches for singles. Do you have one person helping you with the
LEANDER PAES: You've thought about that one, haven't you (laughter)? It won't be fair
for me to comment on Mahesh's point of view. But as far as I'm concerned, the reason I
took on Bob Carmichael was because he was one of the best doubles players in the world in
his era. There were no ranking systems at that time, but I'm sure he was probably in the
Top 5, if not the Top 3. Just his understanding of the game, his understanding of both
Mahesh and me, is just spot-on. I missed him a lot of six months that he was away. It was
unfortunate that he missed the French Open, but it's great to have him back for Wimbledon
and again here. He's been a great source of inspiration. He's been, to a certain extent,
the reason why - he helps us pull together. In these last couple months when things have
not been going so good, everyone's had their version the story, and Bob has been one of
the only few who has encouraged us to go straight directly to each other. So much so that
he basically says, "You go directly to Mahesh." He tells Mahesh, "You go
directly to Leander and sort this out." It's fantastic. As far as tennis goes, he
understands the game of doubles like the back of his hand and he gives us some very good
Q. Earlier this year, there was the tension between you, Mahesh, the two sides. Hasn't
most of that gone out the window now or is there still a long way to go to patch things
LEANDER PAES: Well, I think it's coming around the corner right now. At the Gold Flake
Open till about three weeks before -- two weeks before the US Open; it was very, very
tough. It was at its worst. I hope we've come around the corner and we keep things simple
because that's what's needed. I mean, we both play fantastic doubles. We were the best of
friends. We are the best of friends still. We just need to sort things out. We need to
make sure we deal with each other directly and there's no miscommunication because I think
that's all this was about. It was just misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Q. When you were partnered with different players in the early part of the summer
season, was that a test to see how you would go with a different player or was there
something more devious in mind, if I can use that word?
LEANDER PAES: It was definitely not a test of going with different partners. The
decisions that were made, both by Mahesh at the Italian Open to play with someone else,
and by me in Indianapolis to play with someone else, was based on both our individual lack
of physical fitness. I was sick just before the Italian Open, and Mahesh has been injured
just before Indianapolis. That's all that was happening. There were a lot of people that
read into that too much and had their own versions of the story. That's something that is
not in our control. What's in our control is to make sure that we do come together as a
unit, with our separate individual teams, and basically, to keep things very simple.
That's something that is the most important for the next couple months and the next couple
years. It would be a shame if things don't work out, but I'm positive that we are
definitely going to make things work. We are making things work right now, not only on the
court, but off as well, to preserve our doubles team.
Q. Are there any great doubles teams of the past who you admire or try to emulate?
LEANDER PAES: Very ironically, the Woodies are one of the teams that we admire. I
believe they went through their share of troubles, as well. You try and learn bits and
pieces of different people's artillery, as I call it. The Woodies have something special,
and that's why they're one of the greatest doubles teams ever. You just learn from
Q. Have you had any advice from the Amritrajs or the Krishnans in doubles?
LEANDER PAES: Huh-uh.
Q. Besides being one of the top doubles teams in the world, the fact that you're the
first from India to be so highly ranked, I was wondering if that's an added burden,
carrying the flag along with having to play?
LEANDER PAES: You know, it's funny. Every time I do step on the tennis court, I have
the flag on me. I basically take great pride in representing my country. That's why my
results have been better when I have played for the country versus when I've played for
myself. The reason I started playing with Mahesh three and a half years ago was to
basically prove that Indians can be champions. It's a real delight sitting here right now,
even though what all we've been through this last year, for the last three and a half
years, actually my word's coming true. Mahesh has worked very, very hard to make it
happen. It's special. It's really special. I think that's something that gives us immense
confidence, immense belief in each other, that we can come through whenever the chips are
down or when we're tested, you know, to the limit, on and off the court, that we will
eventually stick by each other. That's what makes us one of the best teams out here.
Q. Can you comment on the finals, O'Brien and Lareau?
LEANDER PAES: We've played them quite a few times. We really enjoy playing them. They
know our games well; we know theirs. It's going to be a fun match. The last time we played
them, we didn't start too well at Wimbledon. We were down two sets to Love. We came back
and won that in five. Hopefully, we get a little better start this time. We've got to be
ready as soon as the bell rings to come out firing.
Q. How do you like the crowd here in New York?
LEANDER PAES: The day before yesterday was fantastic when we played Gimelstob and
Reneberg. Didn't start too well. We were down a set. They started saying, "Sare
jahaan se achha Hindustan harnara." I remember the beginning of the third, we looked
at each other, the song was chanting in the back. I had goose bumps on my arms. We made
eye contact and knew we had to get it going. That was special.
Q. Can you translate that into English?
LEANDER PAES: The song basically is not our national anthem, but it's like our folk
song. The words translated from Hindi? To English, it doesn't come across as arrogance. It
just comes across as unity. Basically what it says, "In the whole world, we will
strive to be the best."
Q. There's a lot of speculation at home about the change in captaincy in Davis Cup.
What do you think about it? Do you think there's a need for a change?
LEANDER PAES: Well, I don't like getting involved in politics. I try and stay as far
away from it as I can. When I will be asked as to who I would like as captain, I will
voice my opinion. Until then, I'm going to reserve anything I have to say about that. The
speculations that a few people have made in regards to my lack of happiness with the
present captain is untrue. I respect him a lot as a tennis player and as a person. When
I'm asked as to who I want, it will just basically be based on what the best is for the
Davis Cup team as to what I feel.
Q. You talk about kind of the tough times you've had in the relationship. Can you talk
about direct communication? Do you have to get a tighter bond between the two of you? Do
you think this difficulty can make you two a stronger team on and off the court?
LEANDER PAES: Definitely can. I think, you know, it's funny. When you sit back and
really look at the situation, it's just miscommunication, people misinterpreting as to
what was going on. Mahesh believing a bit of it; I believing a bit of it, rather than us
communicating and coming directly to each other. We've done that. We've sorted out our
differences. The next step now is to keep that bond solid, is to communicate on a daily
basis, on a weekly basis with each other, and get on with what's at hand, which is
basically proving we're the best team out there. The competition out there is tough enough
for us to work on rather than to have extra problems with it.
Q. Do you have to get your entourages or folks on the same page so you're not
constantly being pulled apart?
LEANDER PAES: I think so. I think that is the main thing that has to be worked on. It's
a process that we're going through now. It's not going to be solved with one sitting. It's
not going to be solved, you know, with just people saying, "Yes, I agree. No, I don't
agree." It's going to be something that we have to practice week-in and week-out.
It's something that both our teams have to be on the same page on a daily basis and have
the team's best interest in mind, not both the individuals.
Q. Have you both had to make sacrifices in this to come to a common ground?
LEANDER PAES: Not yet, but it might come to that.
Q. You were saying earlier three years ago when you decided you were going to play with
Mahesh, your goal was to do what you've achieved now. Did you really believe and feel that
it was going to be realized?
LEANDER PAES: Mate, I never do something unless I totally believe in it. I think about
things a lot. I evaluate it. I really ask myself ten times over as to whether I'm going to
give it everything I've got. I'm never sure of the result, but the one thing I know about
myself, whatever is needed to be done for me to achieve my goal, I will do it. The belief
that I had in Mahesh, as well, was the exact same. I knew that he had the ability, the
talent, and more so the heart to be here.
Q. Your doubles partner has been exceedingly well-performing for the last two years.
The whole nation - perhaps you're aware of - wants you to do very well in singles. What is
your plan for the next millennium that is going to happen in the next four months? Are you
going to work at singles in a different concept, seeing all these players struggling with
injuries, physical problems, the way you're looking at the season 2000?
LEANDER PAES: That's been a very tough task this past year, to try and balance both my
singles and doubles. You ask me whether we sacrificed anything for it. That's one of the
things that I feel I've had to sacrifice this year because it's almost impossible to
perform week-in and week-out, 40 weeks a year, at singles and doubles. The end of last
year, we chased No. 1. We ended up short. For the new year, we focused on the Grand Slams
and trying to be No. 1 in the world. We're pretty happy right now that we're in a position
that no one can really catch us till the end of the year. We have many points ahead. So
the goal that we set last year has been achieved, but we still need to keep performing
through the whole year. The end of Hartford, we'd realize our dream come through again.
For the new year, it's something that I'm having to go through now, because I'm 26 years
old, and I'm not getting any younger. I've achieved pretty much every goal that I've set
out to achieve, whether it's been Davis Cup and the Olympics in singles, doubles now. One
of my other goals is to try to get into the Top 50 in singles. That's something that I'm
trying to incorporate into my doubles, as well, as to: How am I going to tackle that?
There's a lot of work that has to be put in for me to achieve that. It's a tricky question
to answer at this moment in time. I don't believe I have the answer. But where there's a
will, there's a way. I'm sure I'll find a way.
Q. What happened in the mixed doubles here?
LEANDER PAES: Not much (laughter). We lost a tough one. Now we see Don Johnson and Kim
Po in the final. I must say Kimberly really played well that day. Had a couple breakpoints
on her in the third set. She came out with flying colors. She aced me on one, which I
don't want to talk about too much (laughter). She really played well. I'm glad to see them
in the final.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.