Nottingham: India’s tennis legend Leander Paes added another feather to his cap when he reached the milestone of playing with 100 doubles partners when he featured alongside Spaniard Marcel Granollers at the Aegon Open.
He and Granollers registered a 3-6, 6-2, 11-9 victory over Treat Huey and Scott Lipsky in their opening match here on Wednesday.
The former World No.1 became the 47th player to reach a century of doubles partners, but the first member of the club to have amassed more than 50 titles and 700 match victories. He became just the eighth player to notch 700 match wins with victory in the French Open first-round match last month.
Granollers is the 100th partner of Paes’ career, combining the Challenger and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour.
One of the greatest of doubles players all time, Paes said playing with athletes of varying personality and constantly adapting to their temperament is a challenge, but he relishes it.
“It means I’ve had a very long career. It’s quite intriguing in an individual sport like tennis to have actually had that many doubles partners. I always try to learn new tricks and keep reinventing myself,” Paes told ATPWorldTour.com on Wednesday.
“Having new partners, I try to incorporate these in our practice sessions. Perhaps they want to learn from my volleys or movement at net or I want to learn from their baseline game or their return game. It’s been a very blessed journey to go through 25 years and 100 partners.”
A crafty and fiery player on the court boasting world-class agility and net presence, the Calcutta native said he employs a lot of thought in selecting his partners, keeping an eye on the strengths and weaknesses of individuals.
“I put a lot of homework into choosing a partner, because I like to choose someone whose skill set is my weaknesses and my skill set is their weaknesses. Whether it was a Martin Damm, who has a big serve and an excellent backhand return or a Radek Stepanek who has an all-court game. Mahesh Bhupathi was mostly a baseliner and then his volleys improved down the track. David Rikl too,” said the veteran, who turned 42 last week.
“There were so many different partners with different skill sets and I’d learn from their strengths, so we complement each other as a team. With all the moving variables that you get to learn a lot about the partnership, I’ve been very good at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a human being and what I focus on is adapting myself.”
A former World No. 1 in the doubles rankings, Paes is the sixth active member of the “100 Partners Club”, with Frank Moser (144), Andre Sa (119), Olivier Marach (109), Carlos Berlocq (104) and James Cerretani (104). He is currently 24th on the list.
Throughout his 25-year career he has also kept a keen eye on his potential partner’s life outside the courts and insisted personal camaraderie is as important as complimenting each other’s skills set in forming a successful doubles team.
“Chemistry is a pre-requisite. I choose partners who are hard-working but laid back; partners who are not only students of the game but are students of life. To have someone who is laid back and can laugh at themselves and we can go to the movies together, grab a meal and talk about something other than tennis is important,” he added.
“The majority of the time with these 100 partners I’ve led the team, but off the court I look to build the chemistry. When you’re on the court handling the stressful situations, you need to know that your partner has your back.”
Paes said: “Making someone feel comfortable on the court is something I’ve been blessed with. The best partnerships are the ones where there is a lot of give and take, where there is good communication and chemistry other than the tennis skill set.”