Leander Paes is an Indian tennis player whose incredible success in doubles and mixed doubles have made him a household name all over the world.
Paes created several firsts for Indian tennis, including becoming the first ever men's doubles Grand Slam champion from the country (along with Mahesh Bhupathi). His accomplishments at the Olympics are also widely celebrated, and it wouldn't be wrong to say that Paes is considered a national treasure in India.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams - singles:
Australian Open: 2nd Round (1997, 2000)
French Open: 2nd Round (1997)
Wimbledon: 2nd Round (2001)
US Open: 3rd Round (1997)
Highest Ranking: No. 73
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams - doubles:
Australian Open: Champion (2012)
French Open: Champion (1999, 2001, 2009)
Wimbledon: Champion (1999)
US Open: Champion (2006, 2009, 2013)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams - mixed doubles:
Australian Open: Champion (2003, 2010, 2015)
French Open: Champion (2016)
Wimbledon: Quarterfinalist (1999, 2003, 2010, 2015)
US Open: Champion (2008, 2015)
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Paes is an aggressive player who spends most of his time at the net. He rarely trades groundstrokes from the back of the court, and almost never hits a topspin backhand; he prefers to slice off that wing.
Paes makes liberal use of the drop shot and lob, and plays a variety of touch shots from all parts of the court. His volleys are considered among the best in the history of the sport, often manufacturing seemingly impossible shots at the net that completely befuddle his opponents.
In doubles, the Indian is an expert at 'poaching' the ball at the net. He has achieved remarkable success by taking time away from the opponents through his reflex drop volleys.
Paes' movement and anticipation are also important features of his game. He regularly features in 'hot shots' clips by using the full dimensions of the court to outwit his opponents.
Paes' consistency and power from the baseline could be considered his weaknesses, especially in singles. He doesn't strike the ball with as much spin and depth as most modern baseliners do, which puts him at a disadvantage while defending.
Paes was born in Kolkata, and comes from a family of athletes. His father Vece Paes represented the Indian hockey team at the 1972 Olympics, where they won bronze. His mother Jennifer Paes played international basketball, captaining the Indian team at the Asian Basketball Championship in 1980.
Paes had a highly successful junior career, winning the Wimbledon boys' title in 1990 and later capturing the No. 1 junior ranking. While he didn't have a great singles career on the pro tour, he won several accolades while representing his country at multi-sport events - most notably the singles bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics.
Paes had a high-profile relationship with model Rhea Pillai, who gave birth to their daughter Aiyana in April 2006. The couple separated in 2013, amid allegations of domestic abuse leveled by Pillai at Paes and his father.
Paes will always be remembered as India's first tennis superstar, and also one of the world's greatest ever doubles players. His Grand Slam tally of 18 titles is among the highest ever accumulated by any player in history, and his feat of competing in seven consecutive Olympics will take a long time to be emulated by any tennis player, let alone an Indian.
Paes created many memorable doubles partnerships, including those with Mahesh Bhupathi, Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova. He won multiple Grand Slams with each of these partners, and some of the rallies he produced in combination with these legends have attained almost mythical status.
Paes had his share of controversies; his disagreements with fellow Indian players Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza adversely affected a couple of Indian campaigns at the Olympics. However, he has never failed to pledge his full commitment to his country at any event, which in many eyes puts him above such disputes.
Paes' longevity is considered a modern miracle. Despite being close to 50, he continues to set the tennis world alight with his outrageous doubles skills, and seems good to go on for many more years.
Paes is a legend through and through, and none of the controversies attached to his name can change that fact.
Social media presence:
Leander Paes Instagram: @leanderpaes
Leander Paes Twitter: @Leander