At London, Paes will also become the new record holder for most Olympics participated in by any tennis player, male or female. Express photo
Now that tennis ace Leander Paes has finally decided to compete at the London Olympics next month, he will break the long-standing Indian record of five Olympics participated in which Paes currently shares with two trap shooters, Dr. Karni Singh and IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh.
At London, Paes will also become the new record holder for most Olympics participated in by any tennis player, male or female. Spain’s top female player Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is the current record holder with five appearances. Tennis made a comeback to the Olympics at Seoul in 1988 after last having been played at Paris in 1924.
The late Karni Singh made his Olympic debut at the 1960 Rome Olympics and his final bow at Moscow in 1980, missing the 1976 Montreal Olympics in between. His best position was eighth at Rome.
Randhir made his debut at Mexico in 1968 in mixed trap and continued till the 1984 Los Angeles Games. His best position was 17th at Mexico. Leander’s Olympic debut was at Barcelona in 1992. Pairing with Ramesh Krishan, the pair were beaten in the quarterfinals.
His moment of glory came when he won the singles bronze medal four years later at Atlanta, beating Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni in the medal play-off after losing a close match to eventual gold medalist Andre Agassi in the semifinals. It was India’s first Olympic medal since the hockey gold at Moscow and first individual medal since 1952.
It was also at Atlanta that he partnered Mahesh Bhupathi for the first time and in 2004 at Athens they came agonizingly close to a medal, losing the bronze playoff 14-16 in the decider. London will also mark the fifth straight Olympics for Mahesh, though for the first time he will partner Rohan Bopanna. Leander will also compete for the first time in mixed doubles, with Sania Mirza.
Leander’s father Dr. Vece Paes won bronze with the hockey team at the 1972 Munich Games. His mother Jennifer captained India in basketball.