August 3, 1996
Q. What's your reaction now after winning after so many years, winning the medal?
LEANDER PAES: My mind is still gone. It's been fun. I haven't really sat back to think about it yet. I just finished my dope control test, so I've just been rushing around doing stuff. But I think it will finally sink in this evening.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what this means to the country? Obviously they're following this with great interest.
LEANDER PAES: What it really means in my eyes is that there's no reason why we as Indians can't do well within the international circuits in any sport. It's just amazing with a little bit of effort what can happen. And that's really been my story this week at the Olympics. I've just been putting in effort match after match, point after point. Even today I was down the set. I was really nervous going in this morning, I guess the 44 years and 16 years that we haven't won a medal really has gotten to me. But it took a while to get my nerves out of there. And the effort paid off in the end.
Q. Two bronze medals in the family, how do you feel about that?
LEANDER PAES: I've got my own. (Laughter.)
Q. Did you feel pressure after losing the first set?
LEANDER PAES: Actually very relieved, strangely. I lost the first set and I finally realized that I was doing everything exactly the opposite of what I had planned to do; staying back in the first set, I was kicking serves in, I wasn't moving my feet well. And I missed two easy volleys, one backhand smash and one easy volley. And a butterfly threw me off a bit. But finally in the second set in the beginning I said let's get to work with what I planned to do and really use my feet well, serve and volley. He stands way behind the baseline and passes. As long as I was running well today I figured I shouldn't have any trouble. I'm lucky that I pulled it off.
Q. Do you feel some redemption today? I understand in India there was some talk that you were the underdog player, and some people had wanted another player to be here. Do you feel a little bit of redemption?
LEANDER PAES: I haven't heard that story at all.
Q. Another reporter was telling me that.
LEANDER PAES: No.
Q. What happened with the wait, just dehydrated?
LEANDER PAES: No, basically I had to do my dope test today, I haven't done it all week. I had to drink a lot. I think the excitement of winning, and just having to so-call "perform." It just took a while to get enough fluids into me and finish that up.
Q. How long were you in there, about an hour?
LEANDER PAES: Yeah.
Q. Did you have any special plan for this match, a plan for your game?
LEANDER PAES: Yes, the last time I played Fernando, I served really well. I didn't serve hard. I was just placing the ball a lot. When you have someone behind the baseline so much, you have to move them off the court, especially with him being left-handed, and in the beginning I wasn't doing that. I was trying to serve hard at him, and he was hitting great returns. He played really smart on my serve because he made me play about five volleys. He's a tough player. I got really lucky there in the second set and I broke back first game, which was big for me and I got the second break, which kind of -- I just said, now I'm up two breaks in the set, and we've got to go to the third. And when it gets into a third set, the way I feel physically, I knew I had the upper hand. I knew that the third set was to my benefit. But again I was up an early break, missed a bad volley at 30-All and I broke again and I was down Love-30 again. So it was tough. It was just more mental than anything, when you play a match like this for the medal. It's like playing the 5th match in the Davis Cup with two matches All. I'm lucky I pulled out of that.
Q. Towards the end did you feel any nerves, anything when the people are shouting, we won the medal, you won the medal and at that time it was very close towards the end. Did you have anything in mind?
LEANDER PAES: Well, my style of playing is being aggressive. Even at 40-15 I kicked a serve in and missed it by about an inch. Some days I miss, and as long as it comes in I will be fine.
Q. When do you plan to return to India?
LEANDER PAES: Good question. Everyone's been on my case to leave tomorrow back home. But it's not good for my tennis right now to go back to India, there will be too many celebrations, and that's not what I need right now, I need to put my head down and work harder for the future. Because once again this has nothing to do with ATP points, this has nothing to do with moving my ranking up it's fabulous that way. I don't think I'll ever forget this week that I've had here, but I go on to another week, I have to look after my wrist, and look forward to the next three tournaments.
Q. How much pressure did you feel going into the match.
LEANDER PAES: It was useless pressure that I was feeling. The reason that I say that is -- whenever someone feels pressure they don't really perform the best that they can, that's at least me. Whenever I feel pressure I don't perform the best that I can. And one of my strengths is just going out on the court and being me, doing the best I can do, no matter what the occasion, and today was one of the first times in my whole life that I felt a little pressure. I'm lucky that I shrugged it off the whole first set and came back from there.
LEANDER PAES: Even though I was on the court working and earning it myself, I couldn't have done it without my captain and Ramesh being here, they've been here all week. I'm not saying it because I have won, even if I hadn't I'd still give them a hug and say thank you. They've helped me out and given me advice and basically kept me in a good frame of mind. And that medal just doesn't show my effort, it shows the effort of the whole team. We played as a team this week.
LEANDER PAES: No, I haven't spoken to him, he wasn't here.
Q. When do you plan to go to India?
LEANDER PAES: Probably after the U.S. Open.
Q. End of September?
LEANDER PAES: That's right, end of September. The medal won't leave me until then. I go to to the Challenger first. I may go to Madras and come back to Calcutta.
Q. The fans are waiting for you, that's why I'm asking you.
LEANDER PAES: I couldn't give you an exact date. I'll probably be there at the end of September.
Q. End of September?
LEANDER PAES: That's right. Straight after the tournament in Madras.
Q. Where are you going to put this medal, alongside your father's, will it be the place you stay in Florida, will you take it to Calcutta, what are you going to do with it?
LEANDER PAES: You ask me the toughest question. Probably to my apartment in Orlando. That's a place that's my little haven. I work really hard there. And all the hard work I put in in Orlando finally shows up here. I'll probably take it back there first. And I would like to keep it in my dad's house for a while, because all his efforts over the years of bringing me up is showing off now. So no matter where I keep it, in Orlando or Calcutta, it belongs to the family. It's the family's hard work, not just mine.
Q. Do you think the success of yours will also help more people to come up in that way?
LEANDER PAES: Sure it will. Cricket is still a major sport, but there's no reason why we can't do well in tennis or hockey or other sports. So it just needs results like this. It needs people from India coming out there and keeping our flag flying high. And kids will start playing the sport. But what I think we need to do is get a system in India. We don't really have a great system. We need the association to realize, we need a lot of the big companies in India, big multi-national companies or Indian companies, we need a system, whether it's funding, whether it's giving it to the people that know how to channelize an athlete, whether it is the right techniques of training, physical, mental, tennis stroking. We need to get players involved, past players involved. Ramesh has opened up his clinic there. I'm too young to open up my own academy, but with the academy I have in Calcutta, it gives us a big boost. This is a lone medal in tennis, however, we need many more. We don't need to turn out players once in 20 years or once in 10 years. Other countries produce players every couple months, every couple of years there are like two guys coming up. And there's no reason why we can't. We just need to find the talent. We need people to understand it's a team, it's not one person, not one family.
Q. Will this medal help you financially, in sponsorships?
LEANDER PAES: Sure, it will help me financially. It will give all of my sponsors that I do have now coverage. It's their help that I'm here. They've enabled me financially to work hard and train at the academies.
LEANDER PAES: On my birthday we went to the Indian restaurant, the whole cricket team was there. And we had a little chat, he knew I was coming to the Olympics, I knew it was a big tour for him in England. We both wished each other the best of luck, in fact we're going back to our days in Salt Lake that we used to train together. We both said that the hard work then is bound to come through some time. I'm glad his came through, he had a fabulous inning and I'm glad mine came through.
Q. How much did the hockey performance affect you?
LEANDER PAES: Sure, we're all in the same country, same contingency, but I have to concentrate on my efforts, I can't control what the hockey team does or not. I'm proud of them, and even though they came 7th or 8th, we worked very hard, and I think we need to give them a lot of encouragement. But again, I need to concentrate on what I have to do.
LEANDER PAES: I have no idea, I wasn't even born 44 years ago.
LEANDER PAES: It gives me confidence in beating a lot of the top ranked players. I've played former No. 1 in the world. It gives me experience to know what I can do. It gives me experience what I cannot do and to balance that properly, so that I can use it to my advantage.
LEANDER PAES: I can't promise anything, what I can promise is my effort. Like you'll have had my effort this week, you're going to have my effort every time I play. If it comes, it comes, I'm just doing the best that I can do.
Q. How does Ramesh help you?
LEANDER PAES: We've grow up together, we're like brothers. First of all he's taken this week off, when he could have gone to a tour event, when he could play on the ATP circuit. He helped me out, warmed me up, keep me loose. Back in the room, we eat meals together, we do laundry together, we share notes about matches. Simple things like that put you in the position that I'm in now. And he's there to knock me down if I get a little too high mentally, and to raise me up when I lose a match, like I did against Agassi. There's not enough words I can say for Ramesh.
Q. So, what's your best match here?
LEANDER PAES: I think beating Nicholas Pereira, I played my best tennis there. But mentally today, it's starting to sink in, mentally today was one of the best efforts.
LEANDER PAES: Ramesh and I have known each other since we were five years old.
Q. What about marriage plans?
LEANDER PAES: No plans right now, but it may come along the line. Thanks.
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