Ageless Leander Paes in the last leg of his stellar home career

Indian star Leander Paes
Leander Paes in Tokyo Olympics

In 2020, the Bengaluru Open looked reasonably packed compared to the regular Challenger tournament, which is known for its rather uninhabited view. One of the main reasons for this was none other than the greatest minister of Indian sports – the ageless Leander Paes.

This was the last ATP Paez event in his home country. And if anyone doubted at all or needed some evidence of the popularity of the Indian tennis legend, these could be the crowd at the Bengaluru Open, which lined up to say goodbye to the icon of this sport.

The tennis player, along with his Australian partner Matthew Ebden, lost 6-0, 6-3 in the final of the Bengaluru Open Challenger round against the Indian duo Purav Raja and Ramkumar Ramanathan, who previously won three of four tournaments playing in pairs. Despite the loss, for the 46-year-old “ageless” player, it was not so much about the score but about finding meaning in the imperfect ending.

Paes is still the face of Indian tennis in many ways. He makes people fill the stands to see one guy play with their own eyes, like this again at the KSLTA stadium. No slogan could be found more suitable than “The Last Roar” for Paes, as he goes through his home journey throughout his professional tennis career and has been duly congratulated by former Olympians and athletes.

Moreover, they were successful, who began their careers at the same time as the Indian, but ended it while the 46-year-old tennis player united hopes for the success of a 30-year career and was awarded many awards and worldwide fame.

So, in 1996, Paes won in singles in India, after which he won 18 Grand Slam titles in doubles, eight of which he earned in the men’s doubles and 10 in the mixed doubles. Moreover, Paes was able to hold out all seven Olympic Games, which is the highest among tennis players.

Lifting the Wimbledon mixed doubles trophy overhead in 2010, Paes became the second man after Rod Laver to win the Grand Slam in three different decades.

In April 2018, Paes fought like a movie hero when he and Rohan Bopanna teamed up to beat Chinese pair Mao Hsin Gong and Tse Zhang in the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup Group I doubles doubles.

Despite their best efforts, India was down 0-2 and needed to recover. Paes was on the team as always to save the day, and then Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran won their respective singles in two sets to help India finish the draw 3-2.

This victory helped the Indian break away from Italian legend Nikola Pietrangeli as the most successful doubles player in the team competition (43 wins in 56 matches, while Pietrangeli – 66 times in 42 matches). Paes also has the fifth most Davis Cup wins, 91-35.

Shortly before the singles final, when the Indian made an incendiary farewell to the stars of various sports. The list included former hockey players Jude Felix, V.R. Raghunatha, Arjuna Halappa, track and field athlete Ashwini Nachappa and Davis Kupper Prahlada Srinata.

“You all taught me that a sincere passion for our favorite sport, dedication and hard work helps us to succeed,”

Paes said, asking the audience to applaud the former athletes.

Also at parting were former swimmers Reshma and Nisha Millet, heptathlon Pramila Ayappa and long jumper Rit Abraham.

“One girl gave me her autograph shirt and said, ‘Leander, can you sign this?’ She was supposed to be about 40 years younger than me, and she wanted my autograph. It meant a lot to me because she recognized my efforts and contributed to my career. ”

This Sunday, the KSLTA stadium was attended by a wide variety of spectators who came to pay tribute to Paes’ incomparable heritage and were immersed in euphoria, probably from his last return to homeland.

At the moment, it is not known if Paes will be able to make the Tokyo Olympics squad to extend his record. But from the looks of it, this could be his last stage in Indian tennis and sports in general before the great tennis player throws his racket.