He may have won 18 Grand Slams but veteran tennis star Leander Paes still has immense hunger to pocket some more before deciding to hang up his boots.
Paes, who recently completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open mixed doubles with Swiss great Martina Hingis, said on Tuesday that he would love to get 20 Grand Slam wins.
“I love achieving history. I would love to get to 20 Grand Slams,” Paes said while dedicating all his titles to his father — former Olympic bronze medallist Dr Vece Paes.
“My father has been my backbone in my career. He has been my biggest critic and I would not have been here without him,” he said while also thanking his trainer and travel companion Sanjay Singh for handling him well during tough times.
Paes’ 18th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros also brought him level to a mixed doubles titles record of 10 with his “favourite” and legendary Martina Navratilova.
“Martina Navratilova is someone for whom what I feel can not be described in words. She’s the one who taught me about longevity,” Paes explained.
Recalling his meeting with late boxing legend Muhammed Ali, who passed away aged 74, the Atlanta Olympics bronze medallist said he idolised the American professional boxer since childhood.
“After I had won the bronze at Atlanta, I remember meeting Ali. His voice was a bit weak but he told me that it is your job to inspire each and every young child in your country. He was right. It is my job to motivate that they can also be champions,” he said.
Paes, who has been the flag bearer of Indian tennis since the past two decades, is on the verge of creating history as the Rio Olympics will be his seventh appearance at the mega event.
Reiterating that age is just a number for him, the 42-year-old revealed some of his fitness secrets.
“The training methods evolve continuously. For me age is just a number. With growing age, the strength and muscle mass decreases a bit but the reflexes remain the same. Keeping that in mind, I keep my fitness regime six days a week,” he said.