Since December 1997, when he played in Ahmedabad with Nitin Kirrtane, Paes is now seen in action in a Challenger event.
Pune : Having ticked off all the boxes during an eventful 2016, a ‘hungry’ Leander Paes is in search of a new partner with an aim to take his coveted Grand Slam titles tally to 20.
The 43-year-old veteran completed a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles when he won the French open with Swiss great Martina Hingis, early this year.
“I have hit all my targets in a tough year. It’s been a rough one. To be able to hit my targets, I am very happy. Now, I will take a couple of weeks off and spend time with my daughter and dad. My benchmark is to get 20 Grand Slams. Once you keep hitting your goals, there is not much to play for. You add something,” Paes said after winning his first round match in Pune Challenger alongside Ramkumar Ramanathan.
It was Paes’ first appearance in India in a Challenger event since December 1997 when he played in Ahmedabad with Nitin Kirrtane.
He and Ramkumar beat Sidharth rawat and Anvit Bendre 6-3 6-4 to progress to the quarterfinals.
Paes revealed that he won’t be playing Andre Begemann with whom he won two Challenger titles (Busan and Biella) and ended runners-up in two ATP 250 events (St Petersburg and Winston-Salem).
Paes said picking partner has become tricky.
“I am looking at partner for next year. 20 looks like a sound like a nice number. A lot of jumbling has happened this year, if you look at teams, not one team has dominated. There was a lot of mix-up,” he said.
“I will be going into training for four weeks. I am lot fitter than what I was 10 months back,” he added.
Asked about his decision to play in India in a Challenger, Paes said he wanted to support Indian tournaments. He made a point in saying that he picked Ramkumar to play even as he had the option to bring any big player from outside.
“I am hungry, passionate about tennis. It’s first time I am playing here. Speed of the court is fantastic. Where ever I am playing and I am looking to entertain people and help out youngsters. I am looking to spread how tennis can be a great profession. To create passion for tennis, and If we can do that a bigger group may be playing tennis in four years, maybe in 10 years from now someone can be winning an Olympic medal (for India).
“I could have brought any other regular partner with whom I play on the tour, but to support Ram and play with him was great fun. I played with Saketh in the Davis Cup and it would have been great had I got a chance to play with him here.”