I have had 95 partners. I didn't choose all of them: Leander Paes

Leander PaesLeander Paes talks about how rural India or small towns can produce champions, his plans to open sports science centres, how he keeps himself fit at 40, and his interest in films.

At this Idea Exchange, tennis ace Leander Paes talks about how rural India or small towns can produce champions, his plans to open sports science centres, how he keeps himself fit at 40, and his interest in films. The session was moderated by Senior Sports Correspondent Mihir Vasavda

Mihir Vasavda: You, Sachin Tendulkar and Viswanathan Anand were born around the same time and your careers also virtually kicked off simultaneously in 1988-89. And this year, you won your 14th grand slam, Sachin played his 200th Test match, and Vishy fought for his world championship title. What's with this coincidence?

I think we need to ask our parents (laughs). There's something unique about longevity of all of us. I think that comes from the passion for the game. For me, my passion for fitness, health and lifestyle is all tailor-made to the goals I have. Over a span of 25 years, I have reached 31 grand slam finals. As much as people talk about the wins, I am looking at the consistency of excellence. To me, that's more important. At some point I know my days will be done. There will be a youngster who'll say 'I've got you, I'm better than you'. We talk about 1973 being a great year, maybe there was a '93 that will be a great year and that kid is just getting ready to turn pro.

Sandeep Dwivedi: How important is it to choose your doubles partner? Do you think that people who don't get along, who aren't the best of friends, can be great doubles partners?

Yes, they can. I've had 95 doubles partners in men's game alone and I have not personally chosen each one of them. I may have chosen 77-78 of them. In life, there are certain chance meetings that happen. What's important is to understand the other person's strengths and weaknesses. So, when you get into that work environment, just to get that underlying trust, to say that today we're going to partner each other and I've got your back no matter what happens — whether we win or lose, whether we make ourselves look silly on the centre court of Wimbledon with a million people watching us on television, or whether it's to tease each other. When you get to understand the nuances of somebody, that's friendship. But when it turns into business, you use that friendship — and 'use' is not necessarily a bad terminology — you use that underlying understanding, that bond, the relationship to bring out the best in the other person.

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