© Marcel Granollers

Leander Paes y Marcel Granollers formaron pareja esta semana en el Aegon Open Nottingham.

Paes Reaches 100 Doubles Partners

ATPWorldTour.com pays tribute to Leander Paes, who is competing with his 100th doubles partner this week in Nottingham.

In doubles, success is predicated on communication, creativity and quick thinking on the court. Positive chemistry is essential, as is giving yourself a tactical advantage by maximising the strengths of your partner and minimising his weaknesses.

The most successful players employ this philosophy and Leander Paes is no exception.

A crafty and fiery player on the court, boasting world-class agility and net presence, Paes is arguably one of the greatest of all time. On Wednesday, the 42-year-old Indian added another milestone to his glittering résumé, when he took the court at the Aegon Open Nottingham alongside Marcel Granollers.

The Spaniard represents the 100th partner of Paes’ career – tour-level and ATP Challenger Tour combined. The former World No. 1 is the 47th player to reach a century of doubles partners, but the first member of the club to have amassed more than 50 titles and 700 match victories. He became just the eighth player to notch 700 match wins with victory in the Roland Garros first round last month.

Leander Paes: The Raja of India

Maintaining such a strong pedigree of success over a 25-year career is an impressive achievement in itself, and it is even further magnified by the slew of varying personalities Paes has teamed with. As the Calcutta native explains, this constant game of adaptation is a challenge, but one he relishes with each new face alongside him.

“It means I've had a very long career,” Paes told ATPWorldTour.com. “It's quite intriguing in an individual sport like tennis to have actually had that many doubles partners. I always try to learn new tricks and keep reinventing myself. Having new partners, I try to incorporate these in our practice sessions. Perhaps they want to learn from my volleys or movement at net or I want to learn from their baseline game or their return game. It's been a very blessed journey to go through 25 years and 100 partners.

"I put a lot of homework into choosing a partner, because I like to choose someone whose skill set is my weaknesses and my skill set is their weaknesses. Whether it was a Martin Damm, who has a big serve and an excellent backhand return or a Radek Stepanek who has an all-court game. Mahesh Bhupathi was mostly a baseliner and then his volleys improved down the track. David Rikl too. There were so many different partners with different skill sets and I'd learn from their strengths, so we complement each other as a team. With all the moving variables that you get to learn a lot about the partnership, I've been very good at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a human being and what I focus on is adapting myself.”

A former World No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, Paes, who turned 42 a week ago, is the sixth active member of the ‘100 Partners Club’, with Frank Moser (144), Andre Sa (119), Olivier Marach (109), Carlos Berlocq (104) and James Cerretani (104).  

On Wednesday, he and Granollers registered a 3-6, 6-2, 11-9 victory over Treat Huey and Scott Lipsky in their Nottingham opener. “It is the first time we played together,” said Granollers. “It's nice to play with one of the best doubles players in the world and in history. It's great.”

What did Paes point to as one of the most critical factors of a successful partnership? Like in any healthy relationship, building chemistry is essential.

“Chemistry is a pre-requisite,” Paes added. “I choose partners who are hard-working but laid back; partners who are not only students of the game but are students of life. To have someone who is laid back and can laugh at themselves and we can go to the movies together, grab a meal and talk about something other than tennis is important.

“The majority of the time with these 100 partners I've led the team, but off the court I look to build the chemistry. When you're on the court handling the stressful situations, you need to know that your partner has your back. Making someone feel comfortable on the court is something I've been blessed with. The best partnerships are the ones where there is a lot of give and take, where there is good communication and chemistry other than the tennis skill set."

100 Partners By The Numbers

100
Total partners (71 tour-level, 29 ATP Challenger Tour)
26
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 partners
24
Different countries partners have hailed from
20
Grand Slam partners
14
Partners won an ATP World Tour title with
8 Partners who have reached No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings
 8 Partners won an ATP Challenger Tour title with
 5 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals partners

All-time leader Sander Groen has played with 168 partners, followed by Libor Pimek (155) and Rogier Wassen (151). Active players on the cusp of 100 doubles partners include Lukas Rosol (99), Teymuraz Gabashvili (98) and former No. 1s Nenad Zimonjic (93) and Max Mirnyi (91).

Zimonjic is one of eight former World No. 1s in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings who have competed alongside Paes, including Bhupathi, Daniel Nestor, Jonas Bjorkman, Mark Knowles, Byron Black, Donald Johnson and Jared Palmer. They enjoyed a dominant 2005 campaign, claiming clay-court titles in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, and culminating in a trip to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title match (l. to Llodra/Santoro). The Serb and the Indian also hoisted the trophy in Delray Beach two years prior.

"Leander was the first partner I played with for a whole year," Zimonjic reflected. "We qualified at the end of the year in Shanghai and it was a very nice experience to be in the top eight teams in the world. We reached the final there. Overall the experience was really nice for me and definitely he will go into history as one of the best doubles players of all time.

"It was nice to be on the court with him and also to play against him over the years. It's always been fun. He can make some shots and points that nobody can and it was nice to experience that."

Having only played with brother Mike during his illustrious career, Bob Bryan is in awe of the achievement. “Leander has played that game very well,” Bob told ATPWorldTour.com. “He knows the psychology of doubles, to make his partner feel better. He's always smiling, giving encouraging tips. He's brought the best out of Lukas Dlouhy, who was lower in the [Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings], but with Leander they played amazing and won two Grand Slams. You got to give it to the guy. 100 partners is amazing.”

“That's an amazing feat,” added Mike. “He's probably most famous with Mahesh, the Indian Express. He's a tough guy, tough to beat. Some of the best hands in the world. It's amazing, I've only played with a couple partners in my career and he's played with 100.  Doubles is all about communication and Leander communicates better than anyone. He's played the partner game well and his partners play better.”

Paes enjoyed the majority of his success with countryman and fellow doubles legend Mahesh Bhupathi, accruing 34 total titles, including 26 on the ATP World Tour and eight on the ATP Challenger Tour. He has competed with 10 different Indians in Davis Cup, including Rohan Bopanna.

"Leander is definitely the best tennis player we have had in India for a long time now," said former World No. 3 Bopanna. "As a competitor, he brings out the best in his partners by motivating them at all times, so he makes a partner very comfortable. It's unbelievable to hear that he is playing with his 100th partner because that is some achievement. It shows as a player how easily he can adapt and change with new partners and it also shows that he has kept himself fit for so many years to achieve this goal. At the age of 42 he is Top 25, which is a great feat and gives an example to everyone that if you keep yourself fit, age is just a number."

Raven Klaasen was partner No. 99. "Getting to play with someone as accomplished as Leander is a great opportunity and experience. Leander has had a lot of success with different players and that's a testament to how adaptable he is at finding new ways to win all the time.

"Leander brings a career with many highlights and experience to the table and it is hugely beneficial for me to learn from him. An important part of any partnership is to have fun and both of us enjoy playing tennis and competing. And when it comes to competitors, Leander is as good as it gets. His desire to work hard and win is why he is one of the best doubles players of all time."

“He’s undefeated with me,” joked compatriot Sanam Singh, who won his lone match with Paes in Davis Cup 2013.

“He’s a great competitor,” remarked Lipsky, who reached the final of the 2009 Heineken Open in Auckland with Paes. “He’s very fiery and has a good attitude on the court. He always seems to find the ball in the right situation, which is something you need to do to be at the top of the game.”

Paes will reunite with Nestor at Wimbledon next week as he pushes on towards a 26th season on the ATP World Tour. The 42 year old stresses that it’s been an incredible journey and with each partner he has not only become a better player, but a better person as well.

"I've had partners who were shy and I had to give them the security to come out of their shell. I've had partners who were very boisterous and loud, but when they come on the court, they completely go into their shell. You go through a week learning about the personality of your partners.

“To see how someone handles adversity is when you truly see their genuineness come. When they are staring a tough situation right in the face, what do they do? They are all different individuals and I've really loved working with each and every one of them."

Leander Paes' 100 partners: David Adams, Zeeshan Ali, Kevin Anderson, Wayne Arthurs, Marius Barnard, Jeff Belloli, Mahesh Bhupathi, Jonas Bjorkman, Byron Black, Wayne Black, Gilad Bloom, Rohan Bopanna, Devin Bowen, Daniele Bracciali, Nicola Bruno, Albert Chang, Tomas Cibulec, Martin Damm, Johan de Beer, John-Laffnie de Jager, Olivier Delaitre, David DiLucia, Lukas Dlouhy, Charlton Eagle, Jonathan Erlich, Oliver Fernandez, Clinton Ferreira, Ellis Ferreira, Jean-Philippe Fleurian, Vladimir Gabrichidze, Mustafa Ghouse, Justin Gimelstob, Neville Godwin, Marcel Granollers, Sam Groth, Chris Haggard, Paul Hanley, Michael Hill, Tommy Ho, Stephen Huss, Mark Kaplan, Mark Keil, Kent Kinnear, Nitten Kirrtane, Raven Klaasen, Mark Knowles, Ramesh Krishnan, Stefan Kruger, Donald Johnson, Nicolas Lapentti, Sebastien Lareau, Scott Lipsky, Michael Llodra, Matt Lucena, Bertrand Madsen, Adam Malik, David Marrero, Marcin Matkowski, Shuzo Matsuoka, Richard Matuszewski, Jurgen Melzer, Gaurav Natekar, Todd Nelson, Daniel Nestor, Piet Norval, Stephen Noteboom, Marcos Ondruska, Oscar Ortiz, Jared Palmer, Nicolas Pereira, Alexander Peya, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Purav Raja, Eyal Ran, Marten Renstrom, David Rikl, Juan Rios, Tommy Robredo, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Maurice Ruah, Jan Siemerink, Sanam Singh, Sunil-Kumar Sipaeya, Roger Smith, Radek Stepanek, Fazaluddin Syed, Andrew Sznajder, Horia Tecau, Arne Thoms, Laurence Tieleman, Janko Tipsarevic, Peter Tramacchi, Kevin Ullyett, Vishal Uppal, Nicklas Utgren, Vishnu Vardhan, Lars-Anders Wahlgren, Stan Wawrinka, Fernon Wibier, Nenad Zimonjic