After 29 Years, Paes Ready For One Last Roar
All good things must come to an end, but some of them thankfully take much longer to reach their conclusion.
Twenty-nine years after playing his first ATP Tour event, Leander Paes is bringing his storied career to a close this season. The Indian doubles legend will play select tournaments throughout the year as part of a farewell tour that he’s calling ‘One Last Roar’.
The first ATP Tour stop in his swan song takes place this week at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune. Paes isn’t content to merely wave goodbye to his fans at home, though. The 46-year-old, partnering Matthew Ebden, upset second seeds Divij Sharan/Artem Sitak 6-2, 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
”I’m trying to go through this year without getting emotional. I don’t think I’ll succeed,” Paes said in a video posted on the tournament’s Facebook page. “Knowing this will be my last [ATP Tour event] in India will not be easy. I’ve won this event several times, done well in singles and doubles, played with many partners. I’ve played in stadiums that were packed and screaming my name. I really am very appreciative for all the years of support.”
”Coming to Pune is a really emotional tournament for me... In this farewell year, I will call it ‘One Last Roar’. I hope I can roar really loud for my fans and all the tennis lovers out there in the country.”
Paes has been a staple at the highest level in doubles for four decades. He’s spent 39 weeks at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings, racked up 768 tour-level victories and won 54 ATP Tour doubles titles, including eight Grand Slam men's doubles crowns. Paes has also picked up 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, in addition to completing the Career Grand Slam in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles.
There’s been plenty of success in singles as well. Paes earned a tour-level title in 1998 Newport and a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Although the fact that Paes could remain in the Top 100 of the doubles rankings at age 46 is an achievement in itself, he started to ponder retirement at the end of last season. After consulting with friends and family, he decided on a farewell tour that he views as a way to show gratitude to everyone who helped shape his career.
”In September 2019, I started looking at the best way to retire,” Paes said. “I asked my whole team, my parents, to give me suggestions. They were all in unity that I need to do one last roar, that I need to play one more year… The majority of them said [it was] to go out there and have a chance to thank the other players that I’ve played with for four decades, thank the tournaments and fans all around the world.
”It’s been a very humbling experience to have such a long career. Whether it’s the 18 Grand Slam titles, the 97 Grand Slam appearances… It’s the people that have made the difference. The people I’ve interacted with through these 30 years have been really special. With tennis being such a global sport, to bring a little bit of happiness to people is something I’ve always strived to do.”
Paes said he isn’t certain of his exact schedule this year, but hopes to play the remaining three Grand Slams and reach 100 total appearances in major championships. It’s almost a guarantee that he’ll remain closely linked to the sport when his playing career ends, but for now, he’s focussed on getting the most out of his final events.
”I know there will be a whole second life for me to live, to build other champions, to do other great things and entertain in many other ways,” Paes said. “But for Leander Paes, the professional tennis player, this is where the train stops.”