New York:It was the tenth Grand Slam win for India's tennis pace Leander Paes after he won the US Open men's doubles. After his win, Paes spoke exclusively to NDTV. Here are some of the excerpts...
Congratulations. You said so your self that this was quality tennis we saw today. In the first set you guys seemed a little sluggish. In the second set some thing happened and you turned it around. What was the turning point?
I have been nursing a really sore shoulder and elbow over the last few days. Before the match I was not quite sure that I was going to finish the game today. I went and got a lot of treatment. It's amazing what one can do with a little bit of belief in one self and hard work. What changed in the second set, when we were one set down was that Lukas just stepped up to the plate. Normally, I am the leader and he is the follower and when he wants to lead it does not really work. But today, he really believed in him self. He came out and led and I showed him that I could follow as well. I was just playing solid. Getting the returns, setting up the opportunity for him, letting him take all the shots he could because he really had all the fire power in his racket. It was a big lesson for what we call the L square team. We showed that Luke can lead and I can follow.
You and Mahesh have played many Grand Slams finals before but never against each other. What was that like?
Mahesh is a great doubles player. A legend of the game. Every time we get to play each other we know each other's game so well. Today was just the same. He was definitely the better player in his team. Knowles seemed to be struggling in the 2nd and 3rd set there. I was happy to get out there and being down a set in the break I kept on fighting and doing my trademark, which is to keep fighting. It worked today.
But being the first to win did that make it extra special?
Not really, I think that the rivalry is really a media creation. I think he has had a fantastic year. He has got to the finals here and at the Australian open. He has had a great year. It is great that the both of us at our age manage to keep winning and getting to Grand Slam finals. I am happy to get my 10th Grand Slam final.
That s right you're partnering with Mahesh again in less than a week at the Davis Cup? What's the magic formula to slip back in to being partners?
It is like riding a bike really. Hesh and I have played together for so many years now that we never forget how to play together. It's going to be funny when we get back to playing together how it all sinks in again. For me, I really have to look after my shoulder and elbow because the Davis cup is best of 5 sets and it is just a week away. I have a task cut out for me to make sure I am ready for Davis cup. But every time I play for my country I put my best foot forward. I am going to check with the doctors now in fact to check if I am fit to play in South Africa. Bottom line is that my country comes before me and if I am 100 percent fit then I will be there and if not then I will do the right thing by the team and let them know that I cannot play.
Well, you could have fooled us today with your game. You seemed so fit in fact so animated. Were you trying to send a message to your entourage or were you sending a message across the net, or your family. You kept exchanging glances with your wife Rhea Pillai.
I think when you are one set down, and you know that you are injured and your back is up against the wall then the tiger only knows how to fight.
For me it is about getting out there and getting the fire in my eyes and playing from the heart. I guess I was more animated today cos I knew that I was injured and I did not want to let any one know that I was a little weak today. It is amazing what can happen with a little hard work and belief. I just got to thank Lukas for winning it for us cos he really did it.
You mentioned your age, 2 Grand Slam men's doubles titles this year - the last time that happened was a decade ago. What's the name of your anti-aging cream again?
I wish it were an anti aging cream. Thanks for reminding me. It was 10 years ago. It's a been a long journey, a real fun journey. I have really enjoyed the journey. it is times like this -- the euphoria of winning, finding a way of getting through obstacles that are bigger than you -- that gets you through your hard days. I am passionate about my life and every thing I do. Every day that I step out on the tennis courts I will look to entertain my fans, I will look to be the best that I can be.
You dedicated this game to your aunt. Why? Tell us a bit about her.
My wife's dearest friend and godmother to my daughter is Kajal Anand and her mother has had a tough year this year. When I won this doubles title a couple of years ago with Martin Damm, she was here with me and she was not here today. Before I came out to play today, I vouched that I would play for her. I feel like her prayers, her fight, her wishes for me got me through a day where I thought for the first time in my career I would not finish my match. I have never stepped on a tennis court and not finished a match and I thought today would be that day because I was in so much pain and I am still in pain now but Rajni aunty comes to mind. I called her "ma" for a specific reason. She is the reason I won today. That match was for her.
Q.And along with Rajni aunty s prayers were the prayers of the audience. They were cheering you on. What was that like?
I love playing for India. Unfortunately, Mahesh and I were on opposite sides. His supporters were cheering Jai ho , Common India and my supporters were singing Sare jahan se acchaa and all that. It actually motivated me a lot. Every time I step put on the court I feel like I have the countries flag on my back. I feel like I am playing for all of you out there and I will continue to do that. Every time I step out on the court I not only play for myself but for you and I hope I can continue doing that for many years.
Another sensation here apart from you and Mahesh was Somdev. Were you watching him as he trail blazed his way through the US open?
Som is awesome. He is my little boy, he is a great talent and a very hard working guy. I look forward to playing with him on the same team at the Davis Cup and then in Bangkok. I am playing doubles with him in Bangkok and get his doubles ranking up. I think it is great to have another really good kid on the horizon in India. He is going to carry on the mantle of Indian tennis for a while. He is the real deal so just sit back and enjoy. He is a good kid.
We have you and Hesh, Somdev, Sania, where do you see the future for tennis in India?
Jeez, I can rattle off a bunch of names. You got Som and Hesh and Sania and (Yuki) Bhambri you have a bunch of young kids coming up so Indian tennis is looking really good. I can't speak for the others. I hope to continue to entertain you and bringing my passion to the game of tennis and representing India for many years.
Lastly, You have no doubtheard about the Serena controversy. You ve played with her, you are friends, you guys goof around and have fun together. What are your thoughts about her behaviour during the semi-final match?
It's a tough one. When athletes get into the heat of the moment things can happen. It will be out of place for me to comment on this. You have to ask Serena what she was going through. You have to ask the linesman what she was going through. But it took me by surprise. To me Serena is a great champion. She has a lot of passion and a great fighter but she is also a great human being. She comes from great stock. Both her and her sisters are great ambassadors and role models of the game. I think she is just awesome and I do not think we should make such a huge deal about it because Serena is just so good for the game of tennis.