Ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, India’s veteran tennis star Leander Paes spoke to CNN-IBN about his sixth Games appearance, his 26-year career, mentoring Vishnu Vardhan and why he has not opened up about the AITA controversy.
On playing his sixth Olympic Games
I am really looking forward to my sixth Olympics. It's been 26 years of a great journey and I am very, very blessed to have my family behind me, to have great support who helped me make solid decisions and a great fan base too. I'll have to entertain.
On the AITA row
For me, I have never wanted to deal in politics. I don't want to deal in selection. So, I leave that to selection committee and that's why the association is there for. For me, now that the teams have been selected, it's my job to go out and do what I do best which is trying my best and putting my best foot forward to win a medal. So, like I have always said, I am happy to play with any of the players that the selection committee has selected.
I am happy to play with Somdev [Devvarman], Vishnu [Vardhan], Yuki [Bhambri] as anybody out there. I am really looking forward to going into the Olympics and also playing with Sania [Mirza]. She's a great talent. She's done wonderfully well in her career. I had great fun playing with her in Doha where we won a Gold medal.
On not speaking openly about controversies
At the end of the day I feel that the history books speak for themselves, as does one’s own career record. I like to do the talking with my racquet. It's been a great season so far, my career record speaks for itself and at the same time I’m really doing best what I do best - which is playing tennis and making sure that I put my best foot forward to win Grand Slams and Olympics. I think that the whole world judges people on a full lifetime and on a full career, not just one instance that is before the Olympics. So, for me, I think it's more important to stay put to your own personal values, stay put to what the Olympics actually stands for, which is integrity and merit.
On mentoring Vishnu Vardhan
I’m happy to play with any player that the selection committee chose me to play with. Once I was chosen to play with Vishnu, I needed to bring him over to Wimbledon and get him used to the atmosphere there. Vishnu had never been to the Wimbledon site and for him to come in and support me through the semis of the mixed doubles, finals of the mixed doubles, court No.1, centre court at the Wimbledon was going to give him a better opportunity to play on that court a lot more relaxed.
On his message to his fans
For 26 years to play for the flag, to play for all my Indian fans around the world, to play for my family, to play for people who’ve believed in my journey is the biggest honour that I have ever had. At the same time, going into my sixth Olympics is a great throw and I would like my racquet do the talking. I would like to play with a lot of passion; I would like to commit myself to things that mean a lot to me.