“A big reason for who I am is because Rohit Rajpal nurtured me as a young boy” says Leander Paes as he hints at making himself available for the Davis Cup Group I tie later in the year

Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna scripted a big win for India against Croatia in the doubles rubber to give India its lone point in the 1-3 loss of the World Group playoffs. Our pair won against Franko Škugor & Mate Pavic with a score of 63 67 75 to script a historic win.

Leander Paes shared his thoughts on the tie, the relationship with Rohit Rajpal and on the rise of Ramkumar Ramanathan the doubles player in this post-match interview.

Thoughts on the partnership with Rohan Bopanna

Over the course of my doubles career, I have had some great doubles partners. Rohan is one of them. If I look at the years that we played together, playing against Serbia in Rohan’s hometown, coming back from 2 sets and a break down and winning that match was just an unbelievable memory. Today was an unbelievable memory as well. Rohan helped me to get my world record with the win against China in China. 

A lot of my history is tied with Rohan and I’d like to thank him personally for sharing the responsibility, the workload and for bringing out the best in each other. As Rohan said, when we have adequate preparation in place, we are one of the best teams in the world. 

I’d like to say thank you to Rohan for these special memories as my days are numbered and you’ll go down as one of my greatest partners that I’ve ever had. 

Is this indeed going to be your last match or is there a chance that you will play the regional tie at the end of year?

This was going to be my last match but you have to ask our captain Rohit Rajpal for that. He said something to me which is going to stay within us and within the team. When it comes to representing the country, I always believe that the country comes first. It’s not me always having to go out and play or me wanting to play. At the end of the day, it’s about what is best for the team and the country. 

I will let that decision to the captain and whether my services are needed or not.  

You had recently mentioned in your speech in Odisha about how you had replaced Rohit Rajpal in the team and played doubles with Zeeshan Ali in your debut Davis Cup tie back in 1990. Can you share more details on the love-hate relationship that you all might share?

I don’t know from where you had inserted the word ‘Hate’ but there is only love in our relationship. More than the Davis Cup, Rohit was my roommate when I was 12 years old. For the first two years, he would beat me up on the weekends in matches. He would beat me 60 61 almost every weekend. He was the guy that I would look up to and still look up to. 

If you know me well, you would know that for me, relationships mean more than anything. My relationship with my captain is phenomenal because he nurtured me as a young boy. What you don’t know or is hard to know is that when I was at BATT for the first year, I cried every single night as I was 12 yrs old and was away from my family. This man was there every single night, put his arm around me and asked me what’s going on, what’s the problem and so on. I would actually confide in him. And a big reason for who I am is because he nurtured me as a young boy. 

The respect for my captain goes far beyond anything. Long story short – it is an honour for me to play under Rohit Rajpal. It is an honour for me to go out there and be there on the bench as he knows me so well. He knows what to tell me at the right times. 

Today when we were down a break in the 3rd set, Rohan and I were working hard to find a way to get back because our opponents were high caliber players and played a phenomenal second set. We had so many break points in the second set but yet they played with their hearts out for Croatia. 

Rohit just said the right things at the right time. He said the right things on the return too. I remember a crucial point in the last game I think – I didn’t win two of my returns while Rohan played two fabulous returns at 0-15 and 15-30. I went to Rohit and asked him to give me a simple instruction to which he did. I was lucky that I was able to hit a winner on it. At the end of the day, it is a team effort. 

About Zeeshan Ali – He was my first Davis Cup partner in 1990. So I have my first partner in Zeeshan Ali and a person I look upto in Rohit Rajpal – I share an unbelievable bond with these guys. 

And Rohan – he is possibly going to be my last Davis Cup partner and the guy who I got the world record with. 

More than winning ties or being match-winners, these guys are good human beings. We all may have our difference of opinions at times but we are all trying. We are always there to support each other, that’s the important point. 

Ramkumar Ramnathan – Your thoughts on Ram, the doubles player. 

Ramkumar is a very talented doubles player. His last few weeks in doubles have been very good. He has beaten me twice in two weeks. I was there with him in Newport a couple of years ago when he reached the final. 

There is a lot of scope for improvement with a lot of our singles players in general. In Davis Cup, it’s the true telling tale of where we stand. Something that Rohan and Rohit had brought up three days ago, the quality of play shows itself on court. If we have to make it to the world group, we have to beat the guys who are ranked lower than us – the players ranked in the top-350 or top-300 or top-250 – we have to beat them. As Rohan said, the quality of singles in our singles players must get higher. 

I have tremendous respect for how hard all our boys are working week-in and week-out. If we look at our team, we have so many options for doubles. The day we get back to the world group is when the quality of our singles players improves a touch.

Indian based in the Alps region. Works for an IT firm during the weekdays und auch lernt Deutsch. On the weekends, he can be traced somewhere in the Mountains or on backpacker trips. Is a Social Worker / Activist with a deeper interest for Indian / Swiss tennis from the past year.

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