Leander extends special relationship with Paris with mixed doubles title (Special to IANS)

Paris, June 4 (IANS) Paris, the city of romance, holds a special place in Leander Paes’ heart as he had spent a few years training in the French capital.

Paes had lived and practised with his French coach at the courts of Roland Garros national tennis centre which was only a few minutes away from the Grand Slam venue.

Now the Indian tennis player, 13 days shy of his 43rd birthday, has been turning the clock back again as he looked in prime form showcasing his speed and agility at the net and won the mixed doubles title with Martina Hingis and reached the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles with Marcin Matkowski.

The unseeded Indo-Swiss pair of Paes and Hingis beat second seeds Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the mixed doubles final.

In 2015, Paes and Hingis won three of the four Grand Slam titles on offer with the French Open the missing trophy in their cabinet.

Fittingly, Paris was also the site of his first Grand Slam triumph in 1999 as Paes and his partner Mahesh Bhupathi beat Goran Ivanisevic and Jeff Tarango 6-2, 7-5.

Paes explained his love for Paris, “I am blessed to have had a long career and every Grand Slam has some unique memories for me. Paris is special to me because I have a lot of good memories having lived and practised at Roland Garros. Also I have won three titles here. It goes to show I enjoy the place.”

Leander has also grown to love playing on clay and has adapted very well to the heavy conditions after the rains at Paris this year, “It is a surface that demands more especially with the heavier conditions. You need more patience and the quality of play needed is also high because you need more variety in your game when playing on a slower surface.”

By winning Friday’s final along with his partner Hingis, the Indian legend has achieved a mixed doubles career slam following his career slam in men’s doubles which he completed at Melbourne in 2012 by annexing the Australian Open doubles crown with partner Radek Stepanek.

With other important events like Wimbledon and the Olympics just around the corner, the Indian star is also peaking at the right time. Paes has been the flag bearer for Indian tennis for over 25 years and he is no mood to slow down. Leander’s many fans are undoubtedly estactic after he clinched another historic title in Paris.

(S. Rajesh is a Chennai based journalist. He can be contacted at srinrajesh@yahoo.com)

–IANS

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