The Leander Paes way: First rule of doubles is to know yourself

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Nitika Walia, Star Live 24
Monday, February 2, 2015
Published On: 18:17:27 PM

Australian Open 2015:To many people, playing doubles in tennis is all about the partner. Find someone who you sync well with and you amplify your power. Don't find someone who understands your game and you find yourself overreaching. And even then finding the right partner is a rare event.

But as Leander Paes and Martina Hingis posted a sensational win in the Australian Open mixed-doubles final and improve their respective Grand Slam count to 15 on Sunday, the thought really was... how does Paes do it?

At 41, he isn't getting younger and given that he ends up changing partners pretty often (he has almost had a 100 different partners now), it is pretty much a miracle that he still ends up on the winning side this often.

After his win, Paes was asked about what he felt was the key for a doubles player to adjust to a new partner.

"The first thing is to know yourself really well. If you know yourself really well and you're honest with yourself about your strengths and more importantly your weaknesses, then you choose a partner whose strengths are your weaknesses," said Paes.

"So my return of serve on a good day is average. But to pick a partner who has got such quick thought from the baseline, even when she's playing mixed doubles, when the guys are popping serves at her. Daniel Nestor is one of the best mixed doubles servers in the game. He is lefty. He has this wicked slice serve on the ad court, which is Martina's side," he added. "He can hit his spot down the T. To see how quick Martina reacts to it in her thought process, then commits to a shot, that's something I learned. Now, when I'm at the net, when I have less time, I've got sharp eyes, I pick up things quick. When I have less time, I'm lightning fast. When I have too much time, my Indian genetics, I think too much."

And a final word of advice from Paes.

"Any up-and-coming youngster in any walk of life, it's not about yourself. You got to learn yourself quick, then you play for the team. The sum of two individuals have got to be greater than two. So the sum of all the individuals has got to be greater than that many people that are there."

Of course, even though Paes is 41, he isn't going anywhere for the moment. Retirement isn't on his mind.

"Actually I was really happy when I was in the gym just now. After all our matches we go and do our training and stuff. The best thing that happened today was my coach came back in and he said, Lee, your speed's back," said Paes after the win. "If you can impress your coach on any given day, you're doing pretty well. Normally they're your biggest critics, they're the toughest ones that you struggle to impress. My dad said as soon as we won, I called him, he goes, Okay, now you have to focus on the next one. I said, Dad, it hasn't even been five minutes (laughter). But I love the game of tennis. To play with this champion who I keep learning from every day is a lot of fun. I look forward to being back soon."

At this stage of his career, a goal will certainly help and that is where Hingis pitches in as well.

"My target is to get Martina her career Grand Slam. That's my goal. If it takes me two years, so be it. That's my goal."

So for the moment, those lightning quick reactions at the net aren't going anywhere. Paes is going to be around -- writing and refining a very special story.


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