When you’re passionate, you play no matter what: PaesDecember 31, 2017
PUNE: Leander Paes says his partnership with Purav Raja will take time to bear fruit, given the latter’s unique style of playing, but is confident that once the duo strike rhythm the results will begin to come.
“Purav plays a very interesting of i-formation, which is unique to the way we move. So that’s taken a while getting used to, and that is going to take a little more while getting used to in 2018,” Paes, 44, said at the $560,000 Tata Open Maharashtra.
“We have played only three months now. We have a long season ahead of us. Given his unique style of playing, you need to play lots of matches together.”
Paes, world ranked 63, began to combine with Raja, ranked 60, before the 2017 US Open and the pair finished the season with back to back Challenger titles in Knoxville and Champaign in the US.
The multiple Grand Slam champion said playing in Challengers will give the duo to time to gel and be ready for the higher level tournaments when their rankings begin to climb up.
“When you are passionate for the game, you play no matter what. I think the lines, the courts, what it takes to win are all the same. Also, when you are developing a partnership, you need to work at different levels,” the former doubles world No. 1 said.
“For us once the rhythm comes in, I have no doubt we can do really well, get back to the Tour, Masters and the Slams. But to develop a partnership you need to work at the ATP 250s, 500s and Challengers.”
Paes has combined with more than 100 partners since turning pro in 1991. He said he has continuously “adapted” and “reinvented” his game to be successful on the international stage over a long period of time.
“You have to adapt. Like anything in life if you don’t, you become obsolete. I have found that the magic of competing at the highest level is in the reinvention of my game. I am lucky I am a good athlete and student of the game. I look to adapt my style according to my partners,” he said.
The change in rules for doubles in the recent years has further accentuated the difficulty for the doubles specialists like Paes, who has eight majors and 46 Tour titles in his cupboard.
“You can do the math. I believe that if you are in the top-33 in the world, you can stick to one partner and play. Even then there is no guarantee,” he said. “Because, in the second half of 2017, you can see how many have switched switching partners. Only the top-10 teams in the world stick together. That would be first 15-20 in rankings.
“But since a lot of singles players in 20s, 30s and 40 (in rankings) are playing, it is making doubles ranking much more important. Earlier you could be ranked 45 or in 50s and get into Masters in doubles. But now, not necessarily.
“Michael Venus (World No. 15 of New Zealand) wins the French Open with Ryan Harrison (No. 16 in doubles and 47 in singles from USA), and now he is going to play with Raven Klaasen (of South Africa).
“Back in the day, you win any Grand Slam, any Masters series, you stick with that partner through and through. It goes to show how doubles is played in the modern day.”
Paes said struggles on and off the court wouldn’t stop him from playing.
“Trust me, at this age it’s very hard to motivate oneself and I enjoy doing that. I keep pushing myself to find new ways to motivate myself,” he said.
“The effort it takes to prepare in the gym and practice, off the court away from the spotlight, when things are not going well is when champions come through.”