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Greater than the greatest ?

Is he the greatest sportsman that India has ever produced?  Greater than the greatest of them all, Sachin Tendulkar?

Many would chaff at the comparison with the God of cricket. After all, Tendulkar played for 24 years and for the first half of that period was India’s one-man army, carrying the hopes of a cricket crazy nation of a billion plus on his shoulder. But for sheer longevity, Leander comes quite close.

Read on to an edited version of what the Time magazine wrote of the Bonzer.

“When Sachin Tendulkar first travelled to Pakistan, Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam, Roger Federer was a name unheard of, Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid, the Berlin Wall was still in tact, the USSR was one big country, and Dr. Singh was yet to “open” the economy. It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual, he excused one man, Sachin Tendulkar.”

Now take away the Berlin Wall and the USSR part and you could replace Sachin with Paes.

At 42, the half Goan, half Bengali is still hungry for the gold.  

Amongst the best double and mixed doubles players in the world, the magical Indian pulled off a Wimbledon title in 2015 along with Martina Hingis making him the oldest player ever to win a crown at the Mecca of tennis. 42 is quite some age in a game where if you are in your early 30s you are considered a daddy and a has been. Quite a few other records too tumbled. Like Rod Laver he has now won titles at Wimbledon in three decades, the 1990s, the 2000s and in 2010s. And by winning his 4th Wimbledon mixed doubles title, Paes now shares the record for most such titles won in the gentlemen’s section in the open era with Owen Davidson.

A champion when it comes to Davis Cup where he brings in that extra touch of class while representing India.

Son of Olympian Vece Paes and of Indian basketball player Jenifer Paes Lee was groomed at the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai in 1985, under which he earned his first earned international fame when he won the 1990 Wimbledon Junior title and rose to No. 1 in the junior world rankings.

With fellow-Indian Mahesh Bhupathi he was on a roll.  In 1999 the Indian Express, as the duo came to be known, reached the finals of all four Grand Slams, winning Wimbledon and the French Open. Paes also teamed up with Lisa Raymond to win the mixed doubles event at Wimbledon. Leander won the mixed doubles events at the Australian Open and Wimbledon with Martina Navratilova both in 2003.

Weeks after the win at Wimbledon, Paes was admitted to the M D Anderson Cancer Center for a suspected brain tumor that turned out to be a parasitic brain infection.

He now looks at playing a record 6th Olympics in 2016 when he would be all of 43 years.  Will he be the man to defy Father Time? 

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