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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The oldest man to have won a Grand Slam title, Leander Paes is an Indian professional tennis player considered to be among the best doubles player of the game.

Born into a family of sportspersons, it is no surprise that he took up tennis at such an early age. He was just five years old when he started playing tennis.

Childhood and Early Life

  • Leander was born in Calcutta, India on 17 June 1973 to a Goan father. Vece Paes and Jennifer Paes were his parents and he was raised in Kolkata.
  • Vece was a midfielder in the bronze medal-winning Indian field hockey team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. His mother captained the Indian basketball team in the 1980 Asian basketball.
  • He did his schooling from La Martiniere Calcutta, and the St. Xavier’s College of the University of Calcutta.
  • Paes enrolled with the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy in Madras (Chennai) in 1985, where he was coached by Dave O’Meara. The academy played a key role in his early development.
  • Leander got recognized internationally when he won the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title and rose to no. 1 in the junior world rankings.


Career:

  • He turned professional in 1991 and the very next year, he, along with Ramesh Krishnan, reached the quarterfinals of the doubles event in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
  • In 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he beat Fernando Meligeni to win the bronze medal, thus becoming the first Indian to win an individual medal since KD Jadhav won bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, more than four decades earlier. Paes mentioned this match as one of his greatest performances on the court, in part because his wrist was severely injured.
  • In the year 1996, he first partnered with an Indian player Mahesh Bhupati.
  • Paes and Bhupathi won the French Open and the Wimbledon in 1999 and became the first Indian pair to win a doubles event at the Grand Slam. Paes became the No.1 player in doubles ranking.
  • The duo won the gold medal at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. The same year, Paes also partnered with Michael Hill for several tournaments achieving moderate success.
  • He participated in the mixed doubles events at the Australian Open and Wimbledon with Martina Navratilova in 2003 and won both of them. After three years, he won the US Open doubles event in 2006 with Martin Damm.
  • The year 2006 was a successful one for him. He played the men’s doubles with Bhupathi and won the gold at the Doha Asian Games. He also won the gold in the mixed doubles event with Sania Mirza.
  • Playing with Cara Black, he won the 2008 US Open mixed doubles title. The next year, he won the US Open men’s doubles with Lukas Dlouhy.
  • Again partnering with Cara Black, he won the Australian Open mixed doubles title in 2010 in what would be the pair’s third consecutive Grand Slam.
  • In 2013, he again won the US Open men’s doubles with Radek Stepanek, marking his third US Open men’s doubles title. Their opponents in the finals were Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares.
  • In January 2015, Paes won the Australian Open Mixed Doubles trophy along with Martina Hingis.


Awards and Achievements:

  • He was honored with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India’s highest sporting award in 1996-97 for his contribution to tennis.
  • Leander Paes has won eight doubles and six mixed doubles Grand Slam title wins. He also won a bronze medal for India in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Grand Slam Doubles title: Australian Open (2012), French Open (1999, 2001, 2009), Wimbledon (1999), US Open (2006, 2009, 2013). Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles: Australian Open(2003,2010), Wimbledon(1999,2003,2010), US Open(2008)
  • The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports presented him with the Arjuna Award in 1990 for his achievements.
  • He was given the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, for his contributions to tennis.
  • He is the sports ambassador of the Indian state of Haryana.

Personal Life:

  • He once dated Bollywood actress Mahima Chaudhary but the relationship did not work out.
  • Later, Paes got into a relationship with Rhea Pillai who was once married to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt. The couple has a daughter but now they have separated and Leander is currently a single father.


Trivia:

  • Leander made his film debut in Ashok Kohli’s Rajdhani Express, a socio-political thriller. He has also been offered his first Hollywood script.
  • Paes is a direct descendant of Bengali poet Michael Madhusudan Dutta through his mother.

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