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July 30, 1996

Leander Paes


Q. So, what is it with you? Why don't you play as well on the tour as you do when you're playing for India?

LEANDER PAES: How did I know that was the first question? I was in the shower and I was trying to figure out what questions you guys would ask and that was one of them. It's just effort. When I play for my country, I really don't expect anything. I have a lot of people supporting me, whether it's the trainers traveling with me, whether it's my captain being with me, or the one that practices with me. More than that, it's back in the room, win or lose and we go back and we're almost like brothers. And it's a whole support team. When I'm on the tour, being from India, finance is a big problem, I don't have too many people traveling with me. For the first three years or four years of my tour career I was alone. And being alone, not having any other Indian fellow tennis players with me, makes it a little tougher. So it takes a while to mature, takes a while to understand what I need to do on the circuit and I've grown a lot in the last two years, I think.

Q. Obviously you're not the one complaining about tennis being at the Olympics?

LEANDER PAES: What would you do if you were in my spot? Tennis is a fabulous support. It's -- I think it should be in the Olympics. It's been there three Olympics.

Q. Officially, yes.


Q. When you came here, you knew you were going to have a support team, so that probably made you feel good. But how realistic would you have thought to imagine yourself now in a medal round, when you arrived here?

LEANDER PAES: I'll be honest with you, I thought I had more chance in doubles than the singles. The heat was a big factor I knew working for me. But again you don't really look at results. I'm not a person who ever promises results, who ever really looks at trying to achieve something really out of the blue, I just concentrate on my effort. I go out there and give each point all I've got. And it's amazing what can happen with a little bit of effort.

Q. Actually you're saying you're playing well from here. But you go to the semis of Newport, and you seem to be playing differently. Your first serve and more percentage play on the rallies. Have you been doing something before Newport, what were your thoughts then?

LEANDER PAES: I think mentally I've relaxed a lot. I've realized that, okay, my strength is at the net, and I'm using that to its maximum. But at the same time I realize that with certain players like Renzo today you can't come in off the first return, especially against players like Enqvist, you can't come in after the first shot. But at the same time I'm being aggressive for the baseline, and keeping the ball in play whenever I need to but I'm looking to get it.

Q. More patient than before?

LEANDER PAES: A lot more. A lot more calm, mentally.

Q. How do you compare this one with the time you won the Davis Cup match in France?

LEANDER PAES: They're the same. They're exactly the same. It's probably more crowd than when we play at home. I'm sorry, more crowd in India when we play than here. And less, when you're playing away, like in France or Brazil, you don't have the hula dancers there (laughter.) But I have a great Indian following, a lot of people cheering for me. But I think it's exactly the same as Davis Cup.

Q. You have Olympic blood lines, your parents both having participated. Who from your family is here with you, and what is the -- what is their reaction to your advancement here?

LEANDER PAES: That's the main reason I'm doing well, it's the bloodline. (Laughter.) My whole family is here. My mom is here. My dad is here. My sister is here. My girlfriend is here. I've got the whole family out here. The only one who is not here that I miss is my grand mom.

Q. How come you have a Portuguese name?

LEANDER PAES: I'm from Goa, and it's a little island on the west coast next to Bombay, and it's a Portuguese colony. I don't speak any Portuguese, if that's the next question.

Q. But your father is not -- the nationality of your father is not Indian?

LEANDER PAES: Goa is part of India. But many years ago it was ruled by the Portuguese. Actually my grandfather, who was born in Goa, he's more Portuguese than my father or myself but Goa is basically where I come from but I was born and brought up in Calcutta.

Q. What about the first serve, it seems to be much higher?

LEANDER PAES: The main thing I only served one double today as far as I remember. The second serve is the main thing that got me a rhythm. I've got a lot more confidence on my second serve. And my first serve I'm feeling good with it. I'm tossing a lot higher than what I used to and I'm playing with a racket which is an inch longer, I've extended my racket for an inch, so for us short guys it makes a difference.

Q. When you miss that easy shot, he broke you back, what was your thinking? Maybe I'm losing the opportunity because of that shot or you just forgot it?

LEANDER PAES: I just forgot it. We have a word called chalaaki, and I'm known for it, it's someone that's trying to be a trickster. But you're not managing to put those shots in the closet, you bring them out. I was lucky I could come back from that, but it hurt.

Q. How big would this be in India? From what I understand India only won three medals that are not hockey; for you to medal how big would this be?

LEANDER PAES: Well, the one thing I've ever wanted to do as a goal was emulate my dad's bronze medal, he won the bronze in '72 and that was in field hockey. I used to see that hanging up in the showcase at home when I was a kid. And I always wanted those, those Olympic rings around it, I wanted something of my own, rather than the family's. It means a lot for me. Playing for my country. Playing for myself means a lot to me.

Q. Who is traveling with you now these days? You said at the beginning you used to travel alone. Who is traveling with you these days?

LEANDER PAES: Tennis-wise I've got my trainer traveling with me, he's American, himself. We've been traveling for about a year now.

Q. What's his name?

LEANDER PAES: Mike Rada, R-a-d-a. So Mike's been traveling with me for a little while. And basically he doesn't know tennis at all. He basically is there to keep me healthy, keep me fit, making sure I go to the gym and do my workouts every day and keep me away from injuries.

Q. And Mahesh, does he travel with you?

LEANDER PAES: Yes, his ranking in singles is lower than mine, his doubles ranking is 140. 140, is a little better. So we play some doubles together. A few weeks we are partners; he plays challengers and I play tour events. But a lot of time we travel together.

Q. He's not in college anymore.

LEANDER PAES: No, he did two years and has turned professional now.

Q. You think a new price is coming after the Olympics, you're waiting for the Davis Cup, or do you feel you've improved during the tournament?

LEANDER PAES: I think I've improved a lot in the last two years as a person. Not only in Davis Cup or the Olympics or on the ATP circuit, I've realized it's not only important enough to play for your country and to play for your flag, it's important to play for yourself, also. I think that's the biggest difference that's been in me the last two years, outside of playing for myself, and I take a lot of pride in that.

Q. Do you still have a place in Tampa? How much time do you spend there as opposed to India?

LEANDER PAES: I spend very little time in India, to be honest. I spend about a month and a half at the most. I'd love to be back home more. But I spend a lot of time in Orlando training, because of the facilities that one can get in America versus the facilities one can get in India. I'm living in Orlando training there.

Q. When in India where do you live?

LEANDER PAES: In Calcutta with my father.

Q. When you grow up you used to see Ramesh Krishnan and Vijay Amritras play. Did that make a difference in your career?

LEANDER PAES: Good question; Vijay had a tennis academy for five years that I was at. And he made a big difference. And Krishnan as a person, he made a big difference to me. For one thing -- it's a funny thing that I've learned, I learned about six years ago from him, and it's a simple thing that carries me right through. He's very organized with little things, getting ready five minutes before than usual, organizing his clothes, organizing his plans. It makes a big difference, you're a lot more at ease, and that's the biggest thing he's taught me, to make sure I'm ready and prepared for things.

Q. Lee, I'm sorry I came a bit late. Can you talk about your father's medal?

LEANDER PAES: As I was saying, India got, I think, a bronze medal in '72 and it used to be hanging up in the showcase at home. So when I was a kid, I used to see those rings, the Olympic rings. I wanted something like that of my own. Now I'm in a position to get that. And it's something I've really got to work to.

Q. A bit frustrating that the first time there's going to be a bronze medal playoff? There is still a little bit of pressure. The medal -- you could get a silver or a gold, but at the same time you aren't sure of a medal when you get in the semis?

LEANDER PAES: It's a bit more meaningful. In the semis if I play well, on center court, you play the finals for the gold or the silver, but if I lose that I play another match for the bronze, and it's going to be a lot more meaningful, but I've got one match before.

Q. Do you prefer this court or some other kind of surface?

LEANDER PAES: I have no complaints so far. Court No. 1 is a little uneven, it slopes a little bit. So that's why yesterday I went on to practice and it was nice of people to not wash the courts down and let me play for about 45 minutes and get used to the courts, and I think that made a difference today. I didn't come in as much today as I did with Enqvist, and I was reading the court a little better, the ball bounced different on the forehand side.

Q. What about with Agassi?

LEANDER PAES: Never played with him.

Q. And with Bruguera?

LEANDER PAES: Played him once in the juniors and he beat me in straight sets, and once in Davis Cup and I won him in straight sets.

Q. Who would you prefer?

LEANDER PAES: Either one.

Q. Have you had a chance to see them play?

LEANDER PAES: I know Wayne has played -- every match that I've played so far has been tough. And I think I've really done a great job preparing myself for these matches, making sure I get a lot of fluids and it's so hot out there. I think that's worked to a big advantage for me these Olympics. It's something I have to do again and get ready for tomorrow.

Q. How about the feelings you felt in the quarterfinals in doubles at the last Olympics and here?

LEANDER PAES: The last Olympics was my first Olympics. I was having a lot of fun. I went and met so many athletes. I was going out, checking out all the different sports and stuff. And the next thing I knew I was in the quarters of the doubles playing for a medal. Caught me by shock a little bit. This one I'm a little more prepared for. It's something I've been working for for a while. I've been working really hard. And the hard work is playing off.

Q. Just in case you have to play the third place playoff, do you think you still have the motivation?

LEANDER PAES: Yeah. You're playing not only for a medal, you're playing another match. And every time you step on the court as a professional you have to go out there and give everything you've got. And I'm ready for that, if it comes to that.

Q. You've got a wild card which you came to know about only after having arrived here in Atlanta?

LEANDER PAES: I found out four months ago.

Q. The wild card?


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