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January 28, 2012

Leander Paes

Radek Stepanek


7‑6, 6‑2

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  Leander, going in, other than playing good tennis, what do you think you had to do to win this match?
LEANDER PAES:  For three weeks I've been working on Radek's doubles skills.  There's no question that his talent as a tennis player is phenomenal.  His athleticism both on the baseline and at the net, his mental toughness, he really wants to win.
So for me, there was not a whole lot I had to do with it.  All I had to do was to practice some reflex volleys, and you guys saw plenty of that today.
I think when we are both at the net I could have might as well put my racquet down and kind of folded my arms because I didn't see a ball at the net.
He did a great job actually the two volleys that they made him play a lot at the net.  They pushed Radek around.  They were flat, they were lobbing him, they were dinking.
So we had to work on that.  We had to work on his net game, on covering the court like a team.  Don't forget this is our first Grand Slam, so we had to work like a team.
In doubles, the key to doubles is actually having like an umbilical cord connecting you and you move like a team, especially at the net.  That's what we managed to do well today.
Also the other thing was that‑‑ I'm giving you all my secrets, aren't I?
The other thing was to make a lot of returns.  They don't necessarily have to be the hardest, fastest, biggest returns in the game.  You just have to make them.
Because once the point starts, the speed that we have, it's going to be very tough for our opponents to get past us.

Q.  You seem to be playing even riskier than usual, or was that my misperception?
LEANDER PAES:  Please don't tell my dad that.  He thinks I have been a risk‑taker since I was born.
The funny thing is I'm a very methodical man.  I work very, very hard at doing the basics right, which allows me to take risks.  I have one of the most phenomenal partners I have ever had because he's the same.
You should see how disciplined he is with his daily schedule.  Then we get on the court and we have fun.  We play with passion and we have fun.
In the semifinals, Mirnyi and Nestor blew us off the court for a set and a half.  We needed one chance, and Radek kept on saying that.  One chance partner.  Be ready for it.

Q.  Radek, you guys have played together before this year, is that right?  How recently?  Has it been many years?  You played together at Sydney.  When was the last time you played together before that?
RADEK STEPANEK:  Before that, I think we played definitely in 2004.  That was our first ever tournament together in Delray Beach, which I remember like it was yesterday because I got a chance.
I remember he won US Open that year.  He came straight to Delray Beach, and we won the tournament very, very easily.  We played great doubles.  It was from the first moment we had great connection.
As Lee said, there is one thing which is making us very strong, which is the thing that we have great respect for each other as persons.  We are great friends.  We never let down‑‑ you know, he never let me down and I never let him down.

Q.  When did you play again after that?
LEANDER PAES:  That's it.

Q.  So you played once in 2004, won the tournament.
LEANDER PAES:  (Indiscernible.)
RADEK STEPANEK:  I tell you one thing.  We supposed to play together in the year 2005 the whole year, which I promised Lee few tournaments before end of the season.
But in 2004 I made from qualifying finals in Paris Bercy.  I'm right?
LEANDER PAES:  That's right.
RADEK STEPANEK:  After the tournament I got very close to top 30 in the world in the singles, and I had to make a decision because I have been working on my career singles career very hard and very long, and suddenly I got a chance to be in top 35.
For the next six months I had no points at all, so I wanted to take the chance and give everything to my singles.  I had to pick up the phone and tell Lee honestly that, you know, my whole career, whole life I worked on my singles, and I wanted to, you know, give myself a shot.
That I have no regrets.  You know, I have been playing too much doubles and stuff, and he understand it with all the respect.

Q.  He didn't get mad?
RADEK STEPANEK:  I believe inside he got very mad (Laughter.)
He told me, you know, Partner, it's your decision.
LEANDER PAES:  I knew he come good one day, you know.
RADEK STEPANEK:  You know, since then we play just I think once in Rome, I believe.
LEANDER PAES:  That's right.
RADEK STEPANEK:  That was it.  You know, suddenly we came up here as a team, not as an optional team for a week, but as a team who wants to be successful.  We been talking about this, what we are having in front of us.  We been talking about it in November.
And when we did our schedule, he told me, Partner, the only two things missing in my career is Australian Open for the Grand Slam and winning Masters.  I said, Partner, I will give you my heart, everything to, you know, reach these goals.  And it's happening right now, so it's amazing.

Q.  How does it feel to get the career Grand Slam, the final piece?
LEANDER PAES:  I mean, it's many years of hard work, to really be honest with you.
Maybe I'm saying that because the euphoria is already kind of subdued because I got a match tomorrow.  I believe tomorrow evening I'm gonna be on a flight and I'm gonna be really sitting back and thinking about this.
This is amazing thing about our sport, you know.  I put in many, many years.  I have been in 25‑plus years into the game of tennis, and it's given me so much.  It's given me great friendships, it's given me a way to reach out to all my fans around the world, thanks to you guys.
It's given me an opportunity to entertain people around the world in my own personal style.  But the greatest thing that tennis has given me is the ability to lead a clean life and to work really hard and enjoy with a lot of passion what I do.
I love playing my game of tennis at my age.  I'm going to be 39 this year.  The reason I can still win Grand Slams is, one, I know how to pick great partners; and, two, I'm very passionate about my daily schedule.
Every day I put myself on the line, and that's a lot of fun.

Q.  What's the most difficult thing about playing with Leander?
RADEK STEPANEK:  I will be very honest.  Since I knew what's missing in this career, I felt a lot of pressure, you know, since we step out on the court‑‑ even in Sydney already.  I already wanted to be part of this achievement in what's in front of us.
And to play with Lee, it's really, really‑‑ I don't want to say easy, that everybody can do it.  But, you know, we Lee here with such experience in the doubles, you know, in the most important moments he's a genius.
He works very hard.  I have great respect to him, and for him.  And to be by his side, it feels so natural for me.  I feel always free, you know, no matter what I do from himself, I feel that it's right.  Even I do the biggest mistake I will call it, otherwise it is four letters.  I don't want to be too honest.
You know, it feels, as I said, great spirit, great friendship, great respect for each other.  That's what makes us very strong.  We have been working on every single little detail during the days we spend together on the court.
It doesn't take long, you know.  We have some experience, and we been working very hard for this trophy.  I'm honestly proud of us both, you know, that we are sitting here now with the trophy.
LEANDER PAES:  Tell you a funny little insight, huh, into what happened today.  We haven't played a match on center court yet, and today we really wanted to.
Day before yesterday after we finished, we wanted to get on center as much as we could.  Because I felt in the years in the past when we came to play the Bryans, they generally played two or three matches on center before us, so they are accustomed to that.
Bob said they feel that this is their home court.  Having played them in the finals so often here, I really wanted us to get practice on center court.
Today when we went out there to warm up, they were getting ‑‑ at the end of our warmup they were getting ready for the opening ceremony for the ladies, so the lights were already actually off.
Things I remembered ‑‑ Lord knows this story, because when I was a kid I used to practice my footwork.  I used to practice my shots, my volleys, my footwork in the dark at home in front of a mirror.
And actually it struck me today during practice.  Radek and myself, we have been working on Radek's volleys every single day for the last 21 days, quick volleys from the net, reflex volleys.
He's got the fastest hands, but he has so many options he has to pick a shot.  So today when the lights were off we were actually doing reflex volleys on center court‑‑
RADEK STEPANEK:  ‑‑ in complete dark.  And when I say complete‑‑ (Whistling.)
Q.Talking about 39 and the fitness, Slovak fitness coach, Jozef Ivanko, who works with Petra Kvitova did some good work with you.
LEANDER PAES:  He's a great guy, a lot of fun.  He calls me papa, so I call him grandpa‑pa.  But he helped me a lot when he was traveling with me.  He made life very simple.
See, madame, I'm very lucky to have a great partner who works really hard.  For me, I like to choose partners who like to work.  I kept on saying this before the season started:  I needed fresh legs and new legs.
For me, this guy's legs are as fast as mine, if not faster.  He can jump higher than me.  I'm not a bad athlete, but this guy is a super agent.
So I know for me, at my age, at 39, I needed someone with fresh legs, someone who is happy, someone who has no problem whatsoever to tell me the truth no matter what the truth is.
Because as doubles partners you' actually become each other's brothers, each other's friends, each other's companions through the whole year.
If I make a mistake on or off the court I should be comfortable to tell Radek, and he will find a solution for me.  The same thing for me.  I have played with maybe nine different doubles partners, and this is one of the best ones I have ever had.
The honesty that he has with me is the single most ingredient to greatness, to be able to achieve something.

Q.  You played some wonderful tennis in Davis Cup for Czech Republic with Tomas Berdych.  Lukasz Kubot, the top Polish singles great and good doubles player as well, told me last week when he played here that you are an idol to you because you showed him playing doubles makes you a better player in terms of singles player.  How much (indiscernible) is that that you showed the doubles to a Polish a guy who is a good friend of yours?
RADEK STEPANEK:  Yeah, definitely with Lucasz, we work a lot of hours on the practice court.  When he was improving in his singles, he always came to me, you know, and asked me what he has to do, you know, what advice I can give him.
The thing I like on him is that he's very professional.  He's very hard working.  He's thinking about his tennis even, you know, it's midnight or not.
I know he lives for the game, and I like that thing because he lives in Czech Republic most of the time.  And as I say, I spend a lot of time with him on the practice court.
And, you know, it's always great feeling when you can give what you learned in your career, in your life, all the experiences, and you see that the experiences are working also on the other person who is asking, is looking at you.
Same thing as I'm looking at Lee as an idol how to play doubles.  I'm listening like a five year old kid to his idol.  I believe when I saw Lee's eyes for the first time, I stepped in front of him and tell him something what I think really.
I saw his eyes that his eyes are eating every word of mine.  I felt the respect that's what, you know, what are you giving from the heart.  I played my whole life tennis with my heart.  That's what my father teached me.
You know, that's what's the most important for me.  So when I feel that somebody has that similar feelings about the game and game of tennis, I'm very happy and pleased to answer some questions.

Q.  Are you obviously satisfied with the partnership change and the fact that Mahesh lost earlier in the tournament?  Are you concerned about the Olympics and sort of what could happen there with men's doubles and mixed doubles?
LEANDER PAES:  I'm not concerned about the Olympics at all.  I know I will be ready for it when the time comes.  I love playing for my country.  If you look at my record and the history books, I have always performed great when I played for my country ‑ more than I have done for myself.
Being in the sixth Olympics this coming year says I'm an old man.  It's kind of Radek and Martina and stuff to call me a legend, but they're really just saying I'm old.
But the fun of playing tennis is actually to keep improving and to keep learning.  As much as Radek sat here, is sitting in front of you and told you that I teach him a lot and all that, he teach me something new today.
He taught me something new on the returns today.  He actually told me at the end of the first set, and that's why we broke twice in the second and had a chance to break in the third [sic].  I wish he had told me before the match.
But he taught me something cool.  My returns are not my strength.  I just look to get the ball started and worked from there, because I know my legs and my experience and my tactics take over.
But when you're playing the Bryans, I have an amazing amount of respect for them.  They are big guys, both really tall, 6'2", 6'3", plus one lefty and righty.  There are not too many holes on the court.
In the first set they just kept on bombing us with the serves.  First, second, first, second, big volleys right through.
After that tiebreak when he taught me this trick I grasped it, and I was like, Really?  For me, I had nothing to prove to my dad, to myself, to nobody.  I love learning new things from my partner.  That's why I love playing with these guys.
Tipsarevic taught me something new in Chennai on the return, and Radek taught me something new today.  I can't wait to try it out tomorrow when I play.

Q.  What is it?
LEANDER PAES:  Can't tell you.  This is the beauty of tennis.  Each player has their own intricate little‑‑ I call them idiosyncracies, own little things that are amazing.  Rafa has his things; Federer has his magic stuff; Djoker has his.  You can't penetrate him.
Radek, how well he returned today, he taught me something today.  You have to be humble enough to give and take in a partnership, and that's the beauty of it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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