“I am super excited about the Tennis Premier League Season 3, simply because we are not just coming back after the pandemic, but we are coming back enhanced,” was how Leander Paes, co-owner of the Mumbai Leon Army and a mentor of the event, opened up on the sidelines of the auction to pick players for the eight franchises that will make up the third season.

A bigger purse for the players, participation of India’s leading men’s and women’s tennis players and the involvement of foreign female players was the enhancement the tennis legend was referring to.

With most of the top players spending a majority of the year abroad, playing the circuit, it is very rare for the Indian tennis fan to get an opportunity to see the top players in action and the Tennis Premier League provides that platform said Leander.

“The Tennis Premier League, besides providing a much needed platform for our players to showcase their talent, also brings an entire community together, with the owners, celebrities, sponsors, mentors, coaches and players, which is so important for a sport to grow,” said Leander. The League is on the right track and a lot of credit should go to the founders Kunal Thakur and Mrinal Jain, who have worked tirelessly to put this entire show together, he added.

With sport in the country being hit hard due to the pandemic, the Tennis Premier League comes as breath of fresh air and makes a bold statement that sport can overcome all adversities.

On the personal front, Leander said that he had lost 38 people close to him and his family to the pandemic and it was a tough year for him. On the positive side, he said that he used the 11 months by taking a total break from tennis and has begun training since the last three weeks.

“By the end of 2019, I was jaded and tired from all the traveling and the effort that it takes for me to continue playing at the highest level. The enforced lockdown helped me spend quality time with my Dad, my Mom, my daughter and I was rejuvenated,” said Leander. “I have begun training hard, back to my diet and have lost 6 kgs in three weeks. I am getting back into my rhythm,” he added.

“I am aware of the French Open, the Wimbledon and also the Olympics. The three big ones in the near future and that’s what I will be focusing on. “I have always been a patriot and believe that the only best players should represent the country,” he said while referring to the Olympics.

Leander also said that he won’t be surprised if Nadal betters Federer’s record by winning the French Open, but he was quick to add that “my champion Djokovic would better all records.”

Paes was also full of praise for Karatsev, who had a dream run at the Australian Open. “He was training with quality players for the team championships before the Australian Open and was incredibly sharp at the Slam and to back that up with the performance in Dubai, was just incredible.”

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