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 Leander began playing tennis at the age of five. While his father, Vece was a member of the Indian field hockey team which won a bronze medal in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, his mother, Jennifer was a member of .he basketball team. Leander studied at La Martiniere, Calcutta and at St. Xavier’s College of the University of Calcutta.
Leander joined the Britannia Tennis Academy in Madras (now Chennai) in 1985 where he was coached by Dave O’Meara. He came into international limelight when he captured the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title and rose to being ranked as the No.l junior player in the world. Since then, he has been representing India at various international events winning matches and bringing glory to the country.
In 1992 Barcelona Olympics, he reached the quarter finals of the doubles event in with Ramesh Krishnan. In 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he won the bronze medal in the Tennis event and made India proud with this individual medal won after a long gap of 44 years.
Leander teamed up with another Indian Tennis star 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 the US Open. The dream team separated soon after due to mutual misunderstanding, only to come together again in time for the Sydney Olympics.
The duo then went on to win 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, then ranked no. 2 in the world.
Since 2003, Paes has increasingly focused on his doubles and mixed doubles game. Leander won the Mixed doubles events at the Australian Open and Wimbledon with Martina Navaratilova, both in 2003. In the 2004 Athens Olympic Games he paired up with Mahesh Bhupathi, failing again at the semi finals stage. His next Grand Slam success was in the US Open doubles event in 2006.
Paes lead the Indian tennis team at the Doha Asian Games in 2006 and won two golds in the Men’s doubles (partnering Mahesh Bhupathi) and Mixed doubles (partnering Sania Mirza). Paes has maintained his doubles ranking in the top 20 in the world between 2005 and 2007. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi took part in the men’s doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka who went on to win the men’s doubles gold medal.
Leander is also a member of the India Davis Cup squad since 1990, when he partnered Zeeshan Ali in the doubles to beat the Japanese team in a gruelling 5 set encounter. He is considered as one of the top Davis cup players for his country. He played an important role in the Indian Davis cup team that reached the world group from 1991-1998. He was part of the Indian Davis Cup team that reached the Semi-Finals of the 1993 Davis Cup with wins against Switzerland and France, eventually losing out to Australia.
In singles his major wins came against Wayne Ferreira in 1994, Goran Ivanisevias in 1995 when India defeated Croatia, Jan Siemerink in 1995 to defeat Netherlands, and Jioi Novak in 1997. In doubles, his major wins include beating the French Team of Arnaud Boetsch and Henri Leconte in France with Ramesh Krishnan in 1993. He teamed up with Mahesh Bhupathi to beat Hirszon and Ivanisevic of Croatia in 1995, Martin Damm and Petr Korda of Czech Republic in 1997, Nicolas Massu and Marcelo Rios of Chile in 1997, Broad and Tim Henman in 1998 and Simon Aspelin and Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden in 2005.
At the international level, Leander has one Singles Title, which he won at ATP Tour, Newport, Rhode Island, US in 1998. However, he has won as many as 43 Men’s doubles titles which include six Grand Slam titles, eight ATP Masters Series/ATP World Tour Masters 1000, five ATP International Series Gold/ATP World Tour 500 Series, and 24 ATP World Tour 250 Series.
Leander has reached the finals of Men’s doubles in Grand Slams eleven times, out of which he has been successful in winning the title six times. The pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati created a record by reaching the finals of all the four Grand Slam events in the calendar year 1999. The pair successfully captured the French Open and Wimbledon titles. The same pair also won the 2001 French Open. After a gap of few years, Leander again won the US Open in 2006 partnering Martin Damm. In 2009, he partnered with Lukas Dlouhy to emerge winner at both the French Open and the US Open.
In Mixed doubles, Leander has won five grand slam titles besides being runner-up in five other grand slam finals. He won at Wimbledon partnering Lisa Raymond in 1999. Then he partnered with the great Martina Navratilova to win both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2003. Lately, he has partnered with Cara Black to win the 2008 US Open as well as the 2010 Australian Open. Thus, Leander Paes has proved time and again that he is a genius in the world of tennis and has chalked out a name for himself.
Undoubtedly, the former captain of the Indian Davis Cup team is one of the most successful professional Indian tennis players. Leander was the recipient of the Arjuna Award in 1990. He was a joint winner of India’s highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in the year 1996-1997 along with Nameiiakpam Kunjarani. In 2001, he was awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to tennis in India. He is married to Rhea Pillai, whom he 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. Leander and Rhea have a daughter Ainaya Paes.