Leander Paes, India’s Tennis Pride!

Leander Paes

Leander Paes, India’s Tennis pride, was born in Goa on June 17,1973 and brought up in Kolkata. Born into a family of sportsmen, his father, Vece was a member of the Indian hockey team that won a bronze medal in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. His mother, Jennifer was a member of the basketball team. Leander began playing tennis at the age of 5 and took to tennis at the age of six, though his first passion was football (he used to sleep with his boots under the pillow!).

He joined the Britannia Tennis Academy in Madras (now known as Chennai) in 1985 where he was coached by Dave O’Meara. Leander shot into international fame when he won the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title and rose to No.1 in the junior world-rankings.

He turned professional in 1991 and in 1996 won a bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics becoming the first Indian in more than 4 decades to win an individual medal. The previous individual medalist for India was K.D. Jadhav who won a bronze in 1952. Specialising in Doubles, he was ranked number 1 along with Mahesh Bhupathi.

He captured the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title and was ranked as the No.1 junior player in the world at one time. Since then he has been representing India at various international events, winning matches and bringing glory to the country. He is also a member of the Davis Cup squad since 1990, compiling a 32-19 career record (21-12 in singles). In 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he won the bronze medal (the only individual medal won after a gap of 44 years), thus making India proud after a gap of 44 years. It was K.D Jadhav who won the last individual medal for wrestling in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

He teamed up with Mahesh Bhupathi to form the Indian doubles team and the duo in 1999, showed their class by winning the French Open and Wimbledon and entering the finals of the two other Grand Slam Tournaments; the Australian and US Opens. But the dream team separated soon after, due to mutual misunderstanding. They came together again in time for the Sydney Olympics and started regaining their lost prestige at the end of 2000, winning the Men’s Double title in Japan Open 2000 followed by Worlds Doubles Championship in Bangalore, Verizon Atlanta Challenge, US Clay court Championship in Houston and at Roland Garros defeating the Czech pair of Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner, ranked no. 2 in the world.

Rhea and Leander met and fell in love at an Art of Living course, where she was his teacher. Rhea, passionate about Art of Living, is a qualified instructor who has conducted courses all over the world. Though Leander had an affair with actress Mahima Chowdhury before, she broke away saying that Leander was a two-timer. As a matter of fact the whole scenario changed when he was found to be falling for Rhea Pillai who was the ex wife of famous bollywood actress Sanjay Dutt.

He was a joint winner of India’s highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in the year 1996-1997 along with Nameirakpam Kunjarani. In 2001, he was awarded the Padma Shri.

Thus keeping all these in mind one can definitely say that Leander Paes has proved to be a genius in the world of sports and it has been proved time and again. Having chalked out a name for himself and also being a multi millionaire, he has many things in store to look forward to.

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