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Monday, September 09, 2013

I’m going after 41 now, 42, and then 43: Leander

New York, Sep 9 -- Despite being the oldest man to win the US Open men's doubles tennis title at 40, India's Leander Paes is showing no signs of slowing down.

"Today Radek helped me to get to be the oldest man or the oldest tennis player to ever win a Grand Slam in the Open era. I thank him for that, and we are definitely not done. I'm going after 41 now, 42, and then 43," said Leander after winning the doubles title with his Czech partner Radek Stepanek at the Flushing Meadows here Sunday.
Paes and Stepanek, 34, literally outplayed Austrian Alexander Peya and Brazil's Bruno Soares 6-1, 6-3 in the US Open final. It was Paes' second title with Stepanek, 14th overall and eighth men's doubles.
Paes, playing in his 30th Grand Slam final, had already won the US Open title twice previously with Martin Damm in 2006 and Lukas Dlouhy in 2009.
Paes said immediately after the win he called up his father Vece, also an Olympic hockey bronze medallist, who asked him and his partner Stepanek to carry on.
"You know, both of us just spoke to our respective fathers just now. My dad is an Olympian. Won a medal in '72 in field hockey. First thing he told us was, 'you guys keep getting better'. My father is the sort of guy that doesn't rest on his laurels. He keeps pushing to try to get better. Every one inch, every one percent helps," said Paes.
The Indian said both he and Stepanek get to learn a lot for each other's game.
"Me learning from Radek's returns and his footwork on the baseline; him learning from my hands at the net or the way we read the game; the way our coaches are helping us get better; on the practice court, for me to make sure he does his singles stuff; to go out there and help him with certain drills that he likes to do; after that we go out and do specific doubles stuff to set a strategy for the team we play against," he said. 
Paes said he was also highly inspired by Stepanek, who underwent a spinal surgery this year. 
"Radek inspires me every day. What I like about him is he's humble. He, like any human being, goes through the ups and downs of life, but he always does it professionally. He goes out there to do things that matter to him. His thinking, his thought process, he is very rational. He chooses good people around him. If someone comes in to cause a little trouble, he will see through them. It's just a matter of a little time. He's looking to get better every day. And that's the cardinal rule my father taught me when I was a kid, is to look to get better every day," he said.
Paes said hailing from similar backgrounds helped them to gell well. 
"We both come from humble background and come from countries where tennis wasn't necessarily the number one sport. We both fought against adversity to get to where we are. So age is just a number for us. Age is something that we look at and we smile. We chat with you guys and smile about it, because, you know, you guys tease us about it, which is nice. For us, we really take it very seriously to go out and get better every day and to push each other," he said.

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