Leander Paes: “Bringing Happiness To People Is My Goal”
An interview with the legendary Leander Paes about his career and his motivation. Some questions contributed by Matt Szabo of the Daily Pilot.
You have played at Newport Beach before for the Washington Kastles in World Team Tennis, how do you feel about coming back to Newport Beach?
I love Newport Beach. I believe it is one of the prettiest real estate in the world. I spent a lot of time here with my coach Rick Leach and spent a lot of time here, at this club. The owner, Steve Joyce, is like a brother to me, he’s been very kind to allow me to practice here over the past 15 years. I am a member at the club and I feel like I have a home-court advantage when I play here. Also the members of this club make it a very special place to play. I am so blessed to travel around the world and play tennis, but when you have a location like this, Newport Beach tennis Club, the members have so much warmth and heart. They encourage me when I’m playing matches and practice on the courts whenever I want. I feel like a part of the community here.
You just won the title without dropping a set, how did you feel throughout the week and today?
Comfortable. I felt good, felt like we were playing good, solid tennis. I felt we were prepared for everything that was thrown at us this week. The conditions were nice and warm, which is what I like.
Did you have to play this tournament to try and get into the BNP Paribas Open?
Basically, where my ranking was at the beginning of the week was No. 61. There was a cluster of guys around there, so I figured that if I play here and make a final or won, I would move past them. Last night, my ranking was at No. 49. So I moved up from No. 61 to No. 49 and winning this probably bumps me up a few more spots. Tournaments like this, I do for many reasons. I do it to get matches in. I do it to test my skills against players of all different levels. I do it to get my repetitions in, serves, returns, controlling the match. I do it for a few ranking points too. With what I have accomplished in my career already, there is not much else to prove. So for me, I like to carve out playing in places I enjoy playing at. I love my tennis, I feel very blessed to play tennis for 29 years and still stay healthy and fit. At 45 now, I play because I am very passionate about the game of tennis. It’s a clean lifestyle, it’s healthy, and if I can go out there and motivate some youngsters and children to play tennis then I can bring happiness to people, and that’s my goal.
Does winning titles also keep you going?
Yeah, I think winning titles is always great. It’s always fantastic to go out there and say you have won a tournament, especially a tournament like this where you have not lost a set. The fact that you can come out and still win against youngsters who are 23, 25 and not lose a set is a good challenge for me, to win tournaments and trophies. But like I said earlier, there is not much else to prove in my career. I do it to bring happiness to people. We live in a world that’s quite tough nowadays. You look at what is going on in the world globally, it’s a tough life for people. For them to come and pay their hard-earned money to come and watch us play, I feel that it’s nice to bring them happiness and show them how clean tennis is, regardless of what religion or color you are. Tennis unites people, and that’s what I love to do– bring people together.
Will you keep playing with Jamie Cerretani after this tournament?
Jamie is my 120th partner. (Laughs) It’s crazy and to go and win with him the first time we play together is awesome. 100% when I get a chance to play with him more, I would love to, but I have an Indian partner called Purav Raja with whom I play consistently, so this year we have signed up to play together. I am looking forward to playing more with Purav, but when I get a few weeks off with Purav I would love to play with Jamie. He’s a good guy.
Do you have a method of picking your partners?
I 100% do, but I’m not telling you! (Laughs). You’re not getting all my secrets today.