If there’s one name that is synonymous with the success stories in Indian tennis in the past three decades, it is Leander Paes. In a career spanning close to three decades, Paes is one of the few legendary tennis players India has ever produced. An 18-time Grand Slam champion having collected eight of his splendid wins playing men’s doubles and another 10 contesting in mixed doubles, he is regarded as one of the best double’s players in the world.
Hailing from Calcutta, Paes turned pro in 1991. His longevity in the sport became one of his better known characteristics, as he went on to play professional tennis well into his 40s. Among the host of several national and international accolades the tennis ace has accumulated, he also holds the record of being the only Indian male tennis player to have represented the nation for a mind-boggling seven times on the trot at the Olympics. While, the Tokyo Olympics would have been his record eighth Olympics, however, the former World No. 1 in men’s doubles’ ace announced his retirement from the pro-circuit in February 2020. But as the tennis ace celebrates his big day today, we take a look at his top five moments of his career:
- Paes, won both the junior US Open and Wimbledon titles in 1990. He would also go on to reach the top spot in the junior rankings that year.
- In 1996, Paes became the first Indian to win an individual Olympic medal in 44 years and the first medal for the country in 16 years. On that historic day at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he defeated Argentine-born Brazilian Fernando Meligeni to secure third place. Paes stood alongside gold medalist Andre Agassi and silver medalist Sergi Bruguera.
- One of the biggest upsets by an Indian in men’s singles, Paes beat then World No. 1 Pete Sampras in straight sets (6-3, 6-4) at the Pilot Pen International Tennis Championships in 1998, New Haven.
- While, he teamed up with many players, but his partnership with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi, caught speed. The iconic duo was fondly known as ‘The Indian Express’. In 1999, the pair reached the finals of all four Grand Slams, winning Wimbledon and the French Open. The duo went on to become the number one ranked doubles team.
- Paes paired up with Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek to win the Australian Open doubles title in 2012. However, this Grand Slam win was special as he completed his career slam in men’s doubles (to win all four Grand Slams). The duo were also the first pair to beat the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in one edition of the Australian Open.